Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sales resource for self-published writers

I can't vouch for this service, but it is new, and it is free--which means that if you have a self-published book, you have little to lose. Basically the site is a database that gathers information on your book and its sales record. The idea is that traditional publishers seeking to buy the rights to a "proven" title (i.e., they don't need to invest as much money in creating a buzz) can search the database, find your book, and make an offer to you for the rights.

From their website:

The Publetariat Vault provides a new kind of service to self-published authors: the opportunity to get your indie book in front of the publishers and producers who are seeking proven books for low-risk acquisitions. Publishers can:

  • Find independent literary material that is already proven in the marketplace

  • See actual sales data, and know if the work already has traction

  • See reader reviews from bookseller sites, reader communities like Goodreads, blogs and elsewhere

  • Search by genre, topic, keyword, recommended reading level and more to find the kind of content you want to acquire

  • See author platform pieces, buzz, publicity and more, and know if the author will be an active partner in promotion
  • Thursday, June 04, 2009

    Write pathetically

    When I think about writing, I usually think about it in terms of the hale Aristotelian triad of pathos-logos-ethos (I blogged about this a little while ago). In other words, writing that works well appeals to your audience’s hearts, minds, and sensibility. When we care about a character, that means the writer has done a good job with writing pathos into the scene. Which means that the most exciting battle scene in the world will never be a good one if every character in it remains anonymous.

    This also means that the most important element in the opening pages of a novel is not really action, then, but character. A character gives meaning to the actions on the page. For instance, how much do we care about a child throwing a tantrum in the cereal aisle? How much more do we care if that scene is told from the mother’s point of view, when the tantrum is interspersed with someone telling her that she’s a crappy mom? As always, it depends on the writing, but the second situation would compel me to read on at least a bit further. I’d want to know how the mother responded, both to the tantrum and the criticism.

    This is why good action scenes begin with attention to people–to point of view, character, and the who-what-how-and-why of a given person’s response to a situation. So I guess you could say that good writing is pathethic writing.

    Monday, June 01, 2009

    What I learned at the conference will help you: Part I

    I already knew, but had to learn again, that agents are humans. They are humans with overtaxed brains who get anywhere from 50 to 700 queries per week, who buy iPhones so that they can read your letter in subway on their way home, after spending 10-12 hours on everything else that agents have to do.

    Therefore, if you plan to find an agent rather than self-publish your work, your query letter better sing. You already know that. You'd also better research the agent on AgentQuery.com and PublishersMarketplace.com, so that you can find someone who is right for your work, and mention their work in your letter. Don't take shortcuts here, any more than you would stick any old key in the ignition of your car. Only one key is a useful fit.

    • Actually read the books you mention in the letter. One agent said she received a query from a writer that referenced a book that was not due to be released until next spring. Oops.
    • Follow the query formula: start with a concise opening that contains title, genre (i.e., where your book would be shelved at the store), and word count. Follow with a three-paragraph pitch that covers character, problem, and story question. Conclude with a bio.
    • "Lead with your best," said Jennifer DeChiara. If your work has won awards or been published in The New Yorker, go ahead and put it in the first line.
    • Proofread. Every last period should be perfect.
    • Use the agent's name in the salutation, and spell it correctly.
    • E-query a slew of agents at once and put them all in the "To" field. Agents know one another, and will ignore your letter but exchange amused e-mails among themselves all day.
    • Requery an agent, even if you have revised (unless the agent specifically invites you to in his or her rejection letter). Jenny Bent was the only agent who confessed to having a short term memory about these things.
    • Send cover art for your book with the letter, even if you are a graphic designer.
    • Tell any kind of lie or exaggeration in any shape or form in your letter. As Colleen Lindsay said, "We will Google the heck out of you." If you get caught in a lie, you're out.
    • Ignore submission guidelines.
    The conference was fascinating, and I will post again in the coming days about how to make your publicity efforts sing, how the old stigma on self-publishing has finally worn off, what changes will improve your query and first manuscript pages the most, and more.