First Paragraph-a-palooza Results

All title palooza Holy Crap a lot people submitted to the First Paragraph-a-palooza! With over three hundred submissions, this was by far the most successful writing challenge to date. The WEbook editorial staff had a wonderful time reading through all of your submissions, a big thanks to everyone who participated!

Picking winners was difficult, but we were able to pinpoint three submissions that used powerful language to quickly develop a nuanced and intriguing character.

And the winners are....

#1. Snapped, by HeatherKephart
#2. Piecing it Together by deludez3
#3. You Don't Want To Leave It Behind by Lillyscarlet

We also decided to include two honorable mentions that caught our eye:

On the Brink of Oohs and Ahs by HSMeloche
Torture, Hair Products and Hell by ishta

Congratulations to all the winners! You will receive your PageToFame coupon through a WEbook message.

The Next Challenge:

#17 Red Pen The writing challenge ball never stops rolling, so we're opening up the next challenge right away: The Inanimate Object Challenge. This one is inspired by Louise Doughty's fantastic book on writing, A Novel in a Year, which (as the title suggests) takes aspiring authors through the novel-writing process in 52 weeks.

The rules:
Write a 100 word paragraph from the perspective of an inanimate object (pencil, desk, headset, ect.). Think about what your object does, what would it find important? How would it see itself? Is it arrogant? Shy? Depressed? You decide!

As always, the WEbook editorial staff will review all submissions, pick three winners, and award them a free coupon to PageToFame. Sharp writing is always a plus, but for this challenge, creativity counts the most!

Before you start writing, take a moment and read HeatherKephart's fantastic First Paragraph. In just 100 short words, she artfully conveys tons of information about her character, and creates a vivid and hilarious scene. Enjoy!

Two days into the new year, I was up to my wrists in deceased Tannenbaum needles. The cat was rubbing her clammy nose between my toes to the tune of my husband farting the theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and the vocal styling’s of Nascar commentators were threatening to become a permanent fixture in my auditory recesses. It was time. I plucked my new Nike runners from their spot under the Christmas tree, carried the vile things by the tips of the shoestrings over to Ms. Zerofanny's house, and flung them through her window.

Didn't win a entry to PageToFame? Never fear! You can still read and rate for free, plus you've got one more day to submit your page for the intro fee of 4.95!

My Book Just Got Sold! What Now?

Asktheagent "Ask the Agent" with Ken Wright is back! If you want to catch up on the conversation before jumping in, go here to read past topics. As before, we'll be directing the questions around a broad category to help keep things focused.

Topic this time: A literary agent's role after your book has been sold.

Wondering about the author-editor-agent relationship? Or how things change between writer and agent after the second, third, or even tenth book? If it takes place after book is sold, then it's fair game! Ask Ken anything that comes to mind, and he'll pick the three he likes the most and respond.

We'll be taking questions for the next two weeks, so fire away! 

Corey Whaley's Romp Through NYC

Goodgodbird_publication Last week, Corey made his first trip to NYC, where he met his agent, editor, and the WEbook staff! We were so excited to finally meet Corey in person. Here are his thoughts on the journey, along with some great photos. We've even included a few map markers, so you can follow along with Corey!

There are so many things I could say about my first time in New York City. I could talk about how nice and helpful New Yorkers have been or tell you how the subway really isn’t that hard to navigate, or even discuss how I’ve perfected the art of not looking like a tourist. 

But, this is a writers’ blog. So, I’ll talk about how being in New York, as a soon-to-be-published novelist, feels. 

Simon Cropped It feels all at once overwhelming, inspiring, and oddly magical, for lack of a better term. As soon as I first set foot in the city, I felt a connection. I’ve almost made this trip many times in the past, but I’m so happy that I’ve waited until now, when I was able to see the city and be a part of its story as well. I have gotten to be that guy who comes from a small town to the big city to see his dreams unfolding before his eyes. I can’t explain how it felt to take the elevator up to my editor’s office at Simon & Schuster on 6th Avenue or what it was like to so quickly become friends (over Japanese food) with someone who has changed my life.

Then there’s my agent—Ken. I met Ken and his assistant Ty for lunch on Tuesday and it couldn’t have been any better. We talked about books, we talked about my career, and, most importantly, we just talked-like normal people.
In between seeing plays and wandering around famous museums and taking super-fast elevators to the top of the city, I’ve gotten to meet so many interesting, kind, and all around wonderful people.  Yesterday concluded the “business” side of my trip with a meeting at the WEBook offices, an interview with Publishers Weekly (I had to pinch myself three times), and a great lunch with my new friends from WEBook.

DSCF5853 Last night, I met up with my old advisor from college-who now teaches at SUNY New Paltz-and we talked poetry and books and big city life, all while eating genuine New York pizza. To see his reaction to my book news was definitely one of the highlights of this entire trip. 

So, I want to end this blog here, as I sit in the café at the Metropolitan Museum of Art surrounded by beautiful sculptures and intrigued masses of people, by thanking everyone involved in getting me to this moment. I want to thank WEBook for giving an author who’d almost given up on his dream one more way to be heard. I want to thank Ken for being so enthusiastic over my writing that I was signed with a publisher in less than a month. And I want to thank my editor, Nami, for fighting for me at Simon & Schuster. 

It’s so incredibly corny and cliché to say this, but don’t ever give up on what you KNOW you were meant to be.


Quiet on the Set: A Book Crew

Editing in Film and Fiction
We've decided to shake things up a bit with the Guest Author series and make a Guest Editorial Assistant entry! Welcome Sarah Jae-Jones (@sjaejones), Editorial Assistant at St. Martin's press, who shares her thoughts on the publication process.

When it comes to getting a book published, I find it helpful to think of the book as a movie. Growing up in Los Angeles, you can’t put help get a sense of the inner workings of movie production. My high school was a location for no less than 25 films (the most famous being Jurassic Park and Legally Blonde), so the language and medium of film is something with which I’m pretty familiar.

They say it takes a village to raise a kid. If it takes a crew to bring a film from script to screen, then it also takes a team to bring a manuscript from the writer’s head onto bookshelves across America and it’s more like Hollywood than you might think.

The publisher is the producer: the one who funds the film, who distributes the reels to theaters across the country, and who provides resources for marketing and publicity. A publishing house is like a studio, and they work on getting the public to consume the book, both as a product and an art.

But what about the writer, the novelist? The obvious analogous role seems to be the screenwriter, but in fact, the writer is actually the director. The director is responsible for the creative direction of the movie, the story it tells, what themes it explores, and how it executes them. The director’s tools are images and sound while the writer’s tools are words, but their concerns are the same: how do you best tell the story? How do you get your characters to act in real, convincing, and moving ways? How do you effectively convey the narrative with all the resources you have?

Where does the editor fall into this process? Film editing is an art into itself, but a book editor doesn’t receive the same recognition, even though the role is the same. A film editor takes raw footage and shapes a movie from it, finding the right gesture, the right take to draw the maximum effect from a scene. Then he or she cuts the film together, trimming the excess, excising the parts that drag, tightening the movie into a finished product that is paced just right.

A book editor does much the same, working in tandem with the writer/director to shape raw material into a work that lingers or zips when it needs to. Your editor should help you draw the right emotions from your characters and the scene, as well as help shape the overall arc (plot, character, etc.). Should you always listen to your editor? In the end, that’s the director’s call—it is your book after all. But there are reasons film directors employ film editors, just as there are reasons book editors exist in publishing: to work the final product into something that makes the audience/readership feel something.

After all, it takes a village to publish a book.

Sarah Jae-Jones Sarah Jae-Jones (who prefers to be called JJ) was born and raised in sunny southern California but has since transplanted herself to New York City. She cannot possibly tell you why she gave up gorgeous weather, serene beaches, and the smell of night-blooming jasmine for soul-sucking winters, unforgiving concrete, and all-night Ukranian diners, but she blames it all on Sesame Street. When she’s not ruthlessly editing books at St. Martin's Press, she can be found jumping out of perfectly good airplanes.

911 Writer's Block Challenge Results

911bookcover There was another great turnout for the 911 Writer's Block Challenge, a big WEbook thanks to everyone who participated! We will be adding many of your submissions to the 911 Writer's Block tool beginning in April. Those of you who made the cut will be notified via private message soon. Even though we've announced the winners and cleared the entries, the project will stay open and we'll add any new, stellar submissions to the tool on a rolling basis, so keep
them coming!

The WEbook editorial staff picked the best three block-breakers, and we awarded these authors one free submission to PageToFame.

The winners are...

#1. Sbird--A Dramatic Entrance, Diagnosis 
#2. Quinylynnd--Setting, Loss of Electricity
#3. SteveCouto--Setting, Victorian Home

Congratulations to all the winners! Keep an eye on the 911 Writer's Block tool to see the rest of the stimulating ideas WEbook users came up with. 

All title palooza It's also time to announce the next writing challenge: "The First Paragraph-a-palooza." For this challenge, authors must write a paragraph that starts with the words,

"Two days into the new year, I..."

The rest of the paragraph can be about anything, max 100 words (shorter is welcome). The best entries will reveal at least one specific aspect of the narrator in a creative and concise fashion. The deadline to submit is March 31, 2010!

Need some inspiration first? Check out a few great first sentences here!

Introducing "Shorts!"

PtfRateHome_bg-2-1-1-1 Summer is right around the corner: Get your shorts ready!ShortIcon
We have great news for everyone who’s not working on a novel. Or working on a novel AND something else. PageToFame “shorts” is up and  running for essays, articles, poems, short stories, blog posts, and other under-1,000-word formats.

Want to try your hand at a travel article, a business blog, an epic poem, a short whodunit, or a foodie blog post?  We’re ready to see what short stuff you’re made of. The introductory price is just $4.95. Get started here.

FullLengthIcon PageToFame Full-length entries advancing to Round 2...
As if our brand new short content wasn't enough, WEbook has also promoted the first batch of PageToFame entries. Check out some of the top titles. As the pages and votes continue to roll in, we are looking forward to promoting more grade-A writing every week!

....and full-length Judges are here!

Each elevated page will be reviewed by a judge, all of whom are
literary agents or esteemed publishing professionals, and their
feedback will be passed back to the authors. It's a great way to catch
an agent's eye! To meet the judges face-to-face (via a WEbook produced video) go here,
or click your way over to PageToFame submissions if you want to
test the writing waters for yourself!

Lastly,'s got a new look!
And as if all of this isn't enough...there were a TON of other exciting changes to the site including an awesome new navigation bar, a new personal homepage, and for the first time ever your have personalized pages for your PageToFame and AgentInbox activity and much more. Come join the party!

Off to The Big Apple

Goodgodbird_publicationJohn Corey Whaley's journey to publication continues as he preps for his first trip to New York City! While there, he'll get to meet his agent and editor face to face for the first time, and who knows, he may even be spotted in the WEbook offices...

I decided shortly after Simon & Schuster bought my novel that I’d plan a trip to meet Ken, my agent, and Nami, my new editor. Having never been to New York, I figured there was no better way to experience it for the first time than now—when I have a valid excuse to fly across the country to mix business with pleasure (though, it’s hard to tell the difference these days).

And so, I will be setting off next Saturday to spend Spring Break (yep—I still live by the schedule of a student, being a teacher and all) in the Big Apple.  

I was thinking about what this trip really means to me as a writer. You always read about New York City and its often magical power over one’s actions, attitude, style, etc., but what is it going to mean to me—a Southern writer who mostly focuses on rural towns?

The first thing that keeps popping into my mind when I think about my trip is Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. I’m not sure I’ve shared this with anyone, but The Catcher in the Rye, is what made me want to tell the kind of stories I write. Good God Bird is heavily influenced by Salinger’s story of a troubled young man who flees to the big city to figure out his life, the world, et al. There are several references to Catcher in my own novel, given that one character in particular seems to have a fascination with it.  It may be stereotypical for a young writer to say: but I share this fascination. And, I think the fact that Salinger passed away just a few weeks ago has made the work more present in my mind. When I think about my trip, I think of Holden Caulfield standing in Central Park at the end of the novel and I realize that one of my characters, too, could one day come to mind when others have similar experiences. 

I say this all to start a conversation of sorts. I’m always interested in the type of works that inspire others to write. I actually get inspiration from many sources, including other writers, movies, television, and even National Public Radio (as with Good God Bird). 
So, what books, movies, people, animals, places, sounds, etc., inspire your writing?
I look forward to seeing what the city inspires in me…and sharing that with you all!

To learn more about Corey's journey so far, check out his previous posts here, and stay tuned for news from NYC! To hear some more from Corey's agent, check out Ken's latest Ask the Agent post.

Ken Wright Answers Our Questions About Rejection (from a Literary Agent)

Asktheagent Thank you for all of the questions submitted to Literary Agent Ken Wright through our blog post Rejections or: Why is the There a Form Letter in My Inbox?

Below are his answers to many of your questions. Thanks for all the great advice, Ken!

Hey Ken, I am working on a nonfiction book proposal. Is it up to me to identify a possible market for the book? How much market research might I be expected to do? I can take an educated guess, but is that good enough? --PENQUIN

Thanks for writing in and for your really good question. There is often a lot of uncertainty about how much marketing information an author should include in a proposal.  My answer is pretty simple: A LOT. It really is your job as the author to indicate in the proposal that you have a full grasp and knowledge of the market into which you want to publish a book.  If it’s a nonfiction book, presumably you are an expert on the subject, which means you have, or should have, what we call a “platform,” a wide variety of contacts and information about the market that the publisher and you can use to help market and sell the book once it’s published. 

The kinds of information that goes into this are: competing and comparable books; websites; magazines and journals; organizations. There are tons of others. But the point is to indicate very clearly that there is, if there is, a large base of potential readers for your proposed book in the marketplace AND that you have a pretty good sense of how you and the publisher can reach them. Hope that helps.

Hi Ken, Thanks for taking our questions! Here’s mine: what is the most common reason that you to pass on a query that’s competently written, and has a good premise, but just doesn’t do it for you? Is it even possible to say exactly why you pass this type of query, or are you just kinda looking to feel inspired, and pass if lightning doesn’t strike? Thanks! --BEN L.
I am so glad you asked me this. Because I think most agents grapple with this every day. The long answer is that it is strictly gut or instinct. At least that is pretty much how I decide. I have to LOVE something to take it on.  MAYBE one time out of a thousand submissions will I see something that I am very sure I can sell and will take it on, even though I don’t love it. But to be honest, it usually comes back to haunt me. Because these are usually one-shots, and as an agent who wants to work with the best talent, and help nurture that talent and help with career building, I need to take someone on who I feel has staying power, who has more than one book in him or her and who wants to grow, with my help. And for me that starts with the first book that I have fallen in love with.

The short answer is, as you say, I am “just kinda looking to feel inspired, and [I] pass if lightning doesn’t strike.”

This is, more than anything else, a subjective business. Lightning may not strike for me, but that doesn’t mean your work isn’t good and that lightning won’t strike elsewhere. That's why you just gotta keep trying. Don’t give up.

PS  I think this may answer Jennifer Gibson’s question too. You and Ben are sorta asking the same thing…

Ken, This one has been bugging me for a while. Why do so many agents require us to put a word count in our query letters? Is this truly critical information, and do you automatically pass on word-count-less queries? --JOHN

This is a new one to me. I never ask for word count. Having said that, I usually get it, so you guys must be well trained!  It is tremendously useful to know word count. If I get a middle grade novel in, for example, with a word count of 150,000 words, I am likely NOT going to have a look. It just tells me that the author doesn’t really have a grasp on his or her audience. I can’t waste my time reading it—even if it’s only the first 20 or so pages. After all these years, I know a red flag when I see one, and that’s one.  So knowing word count helps. Thanks. Good question.

I know that most of your rejections probably come in the form letter variety, but I was wondering if you ever provide authors with more detailed feedback, despite a rejection. If so, how often do you do this? Is it to encourage the author to make changes and resubmit to you, or just to keep their hopes afloat? --ANNE

Rejections can be cold and harsh and mean and critical. Or they can he thoughtful and helpful and encouraging. So, good question. They take all shapes and forms. And I am quite guilty of writing both of the kinds I mentioned here, sorry to say. But if I really like something, and I have read it all the way, but in the end I don’t think it’s quite right for me, I feel an obligation to be clear (and helpful) to the author as to why it’s not right for me. So, yes, I will provide some helpful (I hope) feedback and encourage the author to go back and do some more work on the manuscript.  But generally it’s not because I think I want to consider it again. I usually do not. It’s because I DO think there is something there, he or she should work on it some more, but it’s just not right for me.

Having said that, I have, and no doubt will again, reject something, provide feedback, and invite the author to resubmit when he or she has revised.  But that is rare.

There really is no one way to do this.  Each case is different. But usually a “pass” is a “pass.”  We get SO much to read that it’s tough to go back to something we’ve passed on. Thanks for writing.

Next up Ken will be answering questions on the Author-Editor-Agent relationship. Post your questions in the comments section below. Want more insider info from Ken? Check out his entire column: ASK THE AGENT. Read to submit to a literary agent? Check out AgentInbox.

First Lines by Poets & Writers

PoetsandWriterslogo-1 PageToFame has shown just how important a good first page is. A good book can easily go ignored if it doesn't also have a good start. Well, every eye-catching first page begins with a fantastic first line, so in our ongoing partnership with Poets & Writers, we'd like to share some more great first lines from a few recently published books. See our previously posted first lines here.

"Jacob stood in the barn mouth and watched Edna leave the henhouse."
Burning Bright (Ecco, March 2010) by Ron Rash. Eleventh book, fourth story collection. Agent: Marly Rusoff. Editor: Lee Boudreaux. Publicist: Michael McKenzie.

"Bernice was ten when her mother walked around the block naked."
Hot Springs (Tin House Books, February 2010) by Geoffrey Becker. Fourth book, second novel. Agent: Ellen Levine. Editor: Meg Storey. Publicist: Deborah Jayne.

"The preacher came up the dusty road followed by the girl pulling the wagon stacked with bibles."
Lamb Bright Saviors (University of Nebraska Press, March 2010) by Robert Vivian. Third book, second novel. Agent: None. Editor: Kristen Elias Rowley. Publicist: Rusty Shelton.

To read more lines, visit Poets & Writers. Or, if you've read a really great first line lately, post it in the comments section below! Maybe you saw one while rating some PageToFame entries?

One Syllable Challenge Results

1 The WEbook editorial staff was hard at work over the weekend reading and enjoying all of the submissions to the One Syllable Writing Challenge. There were over seventy submissions, which was a truly outstanding turnout. We're glad so many WEbookers participated!

And the winners are...

#1. Now Hiring by krymsonkyng (posted below!)
#2. Stand of Trees by k8wheat
#3. Her Book by Lelluriennian

Additionally, we have decided to include two honorable mentions, who wrote
really fantastic scenes, but also had an extra syllable or two in the

'Tween Stars and Earth by meg_evonne
Home at Last by Genie_Waldo

911bookcover We're also jumping right into the next event, the 911 Writer's Block Challenge. For this one, authors are invited to come up with their own plot-freeze ice breakers. Not only will the top three entries win a free submission to PageToFame, but we'll add all good entries to the actual 911 Writer's Block tool! To enter, simply add another chapter to the 911 Writer's Block Challenge, but make sure you follow the directions!

And now, the winning entry, by krymsongkn:

Now Hiring

His desk was made of cheap steel, not wood. Liz watched the man on the desk's far side, her lips sealed tight. He leaned hard on thin arms, hands gripped to hide his mouth and keep his face stone straight. Brow knit, his gaze skipped from her left eye, to right eye, left eye, chest and back to her left eye.

"I'm not sure how to tell you this," his voice fought to be heard through his mask of hands, "but you are not quite what the shop needs right now. I know you know your stuff, and I've seen you come in all the time, but the job has been filled." Liz locked her jaw shut and willed her eyes to stop their flood lest he should see. She knew him, and she knew times were rough, but she could not give up on her dream job.

He could see her breath pick up speed. Her nose flared, her eyes filled with hate? Shame? Some sharp glare that made him bite his lip. "I thought you were a sure thing, but the boss chose to hold off 'til next month. He had some stocks fall through too. You know?" The rift made by his desk's top held him in his seat. Her make up ran. "If you send in a new app in two weeks I can try and put in the good word again."

She stood up, put on her best smile. They shook hands, and she left. The streets were sheathed in snow, and Liz' heels left the tracks of a hurt hare. From one floor up, Drew watched her cross the street, and sighed.

Thanks again to everyone who submitted to the One Syllable Writing Challenge, be on the look our for more writing opportunities, or maybe you want to do some more reading?

PageToFame Promotion Time

Pagetofamelogo The first round of first pages have been promoted!

The WEbook community has been busy rating and WEbook staffers are  now promoting the first “first pages”!

ThumbsupBIG If your submission is still being actively rated, then your page has not yet received enough votes for a decision to be made. We look forward to elevating more and more entries in the coming weeks as ratings continue to roll in.

The PageToFame judges are also ready and waiting to rate the initial pages. Go here to get a sneak peak at them!

To add to the excitement, today is the LAST DAY to submit your page and be eligible for one of the three $1,000 prizes!  We know that everyone is excited to find out who will win, but remember: All pages must get enough votes before we can determine which entries are eligible.

We will keep you informed as soon as more information becomes available, so check back soon!

If you haven't ridden the PageToFame train yet, now's your chance to hop on board.

Have any questions? Check out the forums or post in the comments sections below, and we’ll do our best to help.

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