Travel and Dog-eared Pages





SamS The WEbook Guest Author Series continues with non-fiction author and journalist Sam Sheridan. Sam has written two books about fighting, one a memoir and one a
collection of essays,
A Fighter’s Heart, and The Fighter’s Mind,
respectively. To learn more about Sam, visit his website or follow him on Twitter @fightersmind.



“Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you traveled,” Mohammed said. Travel is the cornerstone of an education. It’s not tourism; there’s a purpose, a job, or a goal. It’s months and years, not days or weeks. A vacation is short, pleasant, and ultimately forgettable, while travel is none of those things.

After college, I worked and traveled for more than ten years straight—I circumnavigated the globe on private yachts as crew, worked construction at the South Pole Station in Antarctica, and fought wild-fires all over the American West. There’s no magic trick to it, and I wasn’t independently wealthy. Half the things I did paid for the other half. I would go after ten or fifteen different jobs, call around, write letters and fill out applications; and one might pan out.


A Fighter's Heart I lived at a kickboxing camp in Thailand and fought a professional fight there, and that experience eventually led to a magazine article, then another, which led to a book. For a writer of non-fiction, all that you have to offer (and monetize) is your perspective. Travel, in-depth working travel, is one of the few things in your control that grants perspective. Being an outsider forces you to have fresh eyes, and returning home having seen other ways and spoken other tongues grants another freshness. In that vein, joining the Peace Corps is probably more important than getting a degree in writing, if you want to be a writer.

But that doesn’t mean you don’t have to study good writing. I only took one creative writing class in college (coincidentally that was my only A in college) and it shows. My growth as a writer has been glacial, one step forward, two steps back.

Having written two books, when people ask me about writing I feel like I should have something profound to say by now. Instead I come up with gems like “Read all the time, write all the time.” Fantastic stuff, I know.

You’re producing a commodity that people will pay for. It’s not quick and easy, it doesn’t spring fully-formed from your forehead and land on the page, “Aha!” It’s work. You need to do all the work, all the mental heavy lifting, painstaking revisions and ‘page one’ re-writes. I obsess about a subject for five or six years, researching, thinking it through, so you the reader won’t have to. You can read it easily over a week and enjoy the fruits of my labor.


The Fighter's Mind When pushed on a “writing tip,” all I’ve got is actually about reading. When I read I make notes. If there’s something good, some interesting idea, or eloquent passage on the page, I dog-ear the bottom. Upon finishing the book, I go back through and re-read every page that has the bottom dog-ear, and I transcribe lines or entire passages. It’s laborious, but then I have a database of quotes, the gist of the whole book, in my files. It’s a way to study whatever it was that first grabbed your eye, the line or the idea behind it. It’s a way to absorb language and nuance from better writers. I was an oil-painter in college and one way painters improve is to copy great works.  Writing is not a gift, it’s a muscle and the more you do it the better you get.

So read all the time, and write all the time. David Mamet said, “..let’s say Sophocles took eighteen years to write ‘Oedipus Rex.’ It’s not under your control how long it takes you to write ‘Oedipus Rex,’ but it is under your control whether or not you give up. It doesn’t have to be calm and clear-eyed. You just have to not give up.”

—Sam




Thanks for the insight, Sam! If you're looking for some more writing advice, read some previous Guest Author posts. Or, if you want to judge some writing for yourself, head over to PageToFame and read a few entries!



Mid-Week Book Publishing Update

With BookExpo America now in full swing, there's plenty of news afoot in the publishing world. I though it would be useful to give everyone a quick look at what's been happening so far, and throw in a few other publishing and writing related bits.


BookExpo The BEA kicked off with its traditional CEO panel discussion. The topic this year quickly, and not surprisingly, gravitated towards e-books, and the ways in which they are altering the publishing landscape. The publishing powerhouses mulled over everything from piracy concerns to the pressure e-books put on paperback prices.

Also, If you're like me, and not able to attend the BEA, they are coming out with a great podcast series that is worth checking out!

Garisson Keillor wrote an interesting article about a glamorous Tribeca rooftop party he attended where he mingled with big name authors like Judy Blume and Scott Turow. He also came out with a rather grim notion—that gatherings like this may soon be at an end, and that "publishing is about to slide into the sea." Personally, I think his prediction is overly cynical, and I hope that I'm right.


CEO panel The Guardian put together a neat (and kinda stuffy) slide show about the changes in publishing during the 20th century. I was especially interested in the final few slides, which talked about a "golden period" in publishing during the mid-90's. I wonder what sort of period e-books will end up bringing to publishing in the coming years.

Finally, One Story had their first annual literary-debutante ball over the weekend. I couldn't make it, but I did buy two raffle tickets for an i-Pad (I haven't gotten an email about winning yet, and fear the worst). For those unfamiliar with One Story, it's a fantastic literary magazine that sends subscribers a single short story every three weeks or so. They also conduct author interviews on their site, which are universally interesting to read (for me, anyway).

The ball sounded like a lot of fun, and I kind of wish I'd sprung for a ticket. Here's one great quote from the Daily Transom's coverage of the event, coming from Michael Cunningham:

"I was once at a writer's conference with Norman Mailer. Somebody asked us about the death of the novel. Mailer told him, 'The novel will be at your funeral.' The short story will be, too."

That's the type of grim optimism I like to see.

Keep Writing!

Brian

Why Bother with the Writing Life?





6a00e54ff9f2cf88340120a786bd73970b I’ve wanted to write this post since before WEbook was kind enough to give me a forum for it. I should probably wait a bit longer for everyone here to get to know me, but judgment has never been my strength. So here goes: I want to talk about why we write. I know—it’s an impossibly giant and tangled topic, one that’s getting more and more complicated by the business of publishing, the state it’s in, the growing blogosphere that covers it, etc.

So, deep breath, I’m going to offer my take by explaining why I keep doing it, along with a few links to some great recent essays on the subject.

Put simply, I write because doing anything else makes me unhappy. I didn’t start out as a writer. I wasn’t much into reading as a kid. Didn’t even major in English at college. I fell into book publishing when I quit a PR job in a fit of post-adolescent petulance. By the time I worked my way up to editor, I’d already grown tired of paying non-fiction writers advances only to have to fix their sloppy work. I figured I could do it better (my second fit of post-adolescent petulance). I got my chance when I was relieved of my job by a boss who found out I felt this way. Recently, I came across an essay that paralleled my experience. In it the writer—who has also been relieved of her job—postulates that living her writing dream is turning out to be far more expensive than it would’ve been to fulfill her childhood wish of owning a pony. I sympathized.

Since 2004, I’ve intermittently held full-time jobs (thanks, WEbook!) and done a mix of freelance writing and editing. As a freelancer I’ve been wildly successful, which is to say that I’ve been able to live hand to mouth (barely) while depleting whatever savings I had. But I did it. Mostly because I couldn’t help it and because having no money and being able to write everyday made me happier than having money but neither the time nor energy to write as much as I wanted.

So have you read my book? Have you seen it on the NYT bestseller lists? No? That’s because my first manuscript—a memoir about life and death that I wrote, grief-stricken, at the age of thirty-two—wasn’t good enough. And now I’ve spent the last four years (on and off) writing a novel that I’m terrified to finish because that would entail the possibility of it being deemed unworthy (read: I am unworthy) of publication. But here’s the thing: I already have another idea for my next book, which I’ll start researching and developing the moment this one is done. Why? Because I refuse to give up.
Here are some reasons why I should give up (fyi, I could write more but ultimately I’m trying to inspire here):


  • The book industry has been trending towards out-of-the-box commercial bestsellers for years, and my novel is a small literary satire about a man who reluctantly returns to his hometown upon his father’s death.



  • As a “small” novel, if I do get a publishing deal it will likely be for little money. Certainly not enough to 1) cover my expenses for the amount of time I spent writing it or 2) cover my expenses while I write my next manuscript.



  • I’m almost forty, currently writing this from an apartment on a hillside in a South American capitol where my girlfriend is looking for work and I don’t have a back-up plan.



  • Writing is hard. If I don’t get enough time to write, I can be mean to the people around me. When I get too much time to write, I get weird. And regardless of the amount of time I get to write, I always think my writing is lousy.



Scared yet? Didn’t think so. (If you are, keep reading—it gets better.) At some point I realized that my passion—nay, my sanity valve—might not pay. And that allowed me to pursue it with more freedom than I’d ever known. This idea was expressed in a recent entry on the NYT’s Paper Cuts blog where the writer essentially declares modern poetry inconsequential (boo!) then concludes that we’re all poets now (prose writers, too) and we should write for ourselves because it’s the only way to make sure that what you create is authentic. (Read the last couple paragraphs—they’re the payoff.)




To be clear: I dream/wish/desire/strive for publication. Every word I write, every hour I sit in my uncomfortable chair and every cell in my body wants my manuscript to be published. And not just because it would validate all the work I’ve put in—I want people to read my story. I want to make others laugh, cry and rage as I have while writing it. And sure, I’d like to earn a few bucks for the effort. But I’d take publication without compensation. It’s not much less than what I currently make off my writing. (Disclaimer: I reserve the right to change my mind about this.)

Ready to give up yet? No? Good. And that’s the point. It’s been said in countless ways, but it’s worth reiterating. You might get lucky with your first manuscript or you might just be that talented, but the rest of us need to be dogged. Check out the following essay by Dani Shapiro, who (eventually) gets to the idea of why it’s important and necessary for writers to stick with it, especially now.

In the end I think we write for many reasons. Publication is certainly one of them, but it’s not what keeps us coming back. It can’t be, methinks. For me it’s about happiness. Which leads me to this week’s question:

Why do you keep writing?

JohnnyM


JMHammock1 John Meils is currently finishing a first novel, tentatively titled The Warring House. He has written for Elle, Men’s Health, and MyTango.com, among others. To learn more about him, visit johnmeils.com.



PageToFame Payout!







12ThowingMoneylogo Remember that March 1st submission deadline from oh-so long ago? Remember the messages and alerts around the site, reminding you to submit and be eligible to win $1,000? It was a while back, and no doubt some of you forgot, but not WEbook!

All pages submitted to PageToFame before March 1, 2010 have made their gauntlet run through the voting cycle, and three pages have emerged above the rest. The 4's and 5's stood out in these authors' bar graphs like Yoa Ming taking a walk through Hobbiton.

And so, without any further delay, the three winners of the $1,000 prize for highest rated 1st pages are:

MEGA-HUGE-DRUMMMROLLLLLLL

Mad River by Skyval
Innocence and Arrogance by Kreeves106
Last by Crusoe

Click on the titles to see the reader and agent ratings the pages received. There were some interesting differences between the two groups!

Congratulations winners! To celebrate this momentous occasion, we asked each winner to send us a pic, and answer the question that everyone will be asking...

What will you do with your freshly won $1,000?





Caroline4crop Skyval: I will pay someone to wash all the windows in my house (I have 42 windows!), and buy paper, ink, and a shiny new red pen.





Kim1cropKreeves106: My husband and I will be using the money to take a trip to Omaha, NE where my son and his family live. I have a new grandson born on December 3rd that I have not even seen yet so winning this money is truly going to make a lot of people happy.



Andywinscropped Crusoe: I SHOULD put all the money towards my credit card bill but I'm seriously considering chartering a biplane thrill ride.





Three cheers for the winners! If you didn't make the March 1 deadline, don't fret yet. All pages that were submitted before April 1 are also automatically entered to win another $1000 (just one winner this time, though). So keep an eye on your bar graphs, and if they're looking exceptionally top heavy, start thinking about how to spend your $1000!

Can You Juggle?




Goodgodbird_publication I won’t be self-indulgent enough to claim that I'm already some expert on having a career in writing. I am, however, someone who has been suddenly (and awesomely) thrust into the position of leading a double life.

I have my one life, in which I teach 6th grade English and Reading in my mid-size Louisiana city of Shreveport. And then I have my second life, wherein I am traveling to and taking phone calls from New York, editing my manuscript in coffee shops, and social-networking to help build up a fan base.

So far, I haven’t noticed my “day job” of teaching being greatly affected by my writing life. I will say, however, that I have started to find it hard to focus the attention (I think) I need to writing. Being a writer has changed for me with all of these recent revelations. For one, I am no longer a lone writer, hoping desperately to be read by someone, ANYONE, someday. I am, instead, a writer whose debut will be on sale in less than a year. I am also someone who has only been able to work on his second novel enough to scrounge up about sixteen pages. This is the part that is worrisome.

I have the great fortune of having a job that allows me some amazing vacation time, though. I am about to be off work for nearly three months and I hope, between road trips and sleeping way too late for my age, to finish my second novel and start the process of editing it as well. But, for those of you who don’t have the luxury (and there are few things about teaching I’d call luxuries) of extended vacations, I find myself wondering (and standing in awe of) how you manage to juggle your two lives?

So, to change things up a bit, I’d like to ask you to share any tips, stories, etc., you may have that might provide some insights to all of us WeBookers who sometimes find it difficult to reconcile what we HAVE to do with what we WANT to do.

Happy Juggling,

--Corey

A Good Ending Challenge Results + New Flash Fiction Challenge






The End! A Good Ending Challenge was open to submissions for two weeks, and in that time over two hundred people submitted an ending. Thanks everyone!

This challenge was difficult for several reasons. Authors had to balance a quick back story (to make the last scene significant for the reader) with an interesting set of final events, which isn't easy. Plus, coming up with an ending is tricky all on its own. Synopses and first sentences are all about the open road of possibility, while endings take you down that narrow alley of resolution

Ok, mediocre metaphors on WEbook's part aside, here are the winners to A Good Ending Challenge:

#1. Someday by AlexVolt
#2. The Dinosaur by vivalavida
#3. Curiosity, And the Death of the Cat by RhindraVekrah


Congratulations to the winners! You will be receiving your coupon code to PageToFame in your inbox's soon. We would love to see your endings again in the final rounds of PageToFame.

Now that we've had challenges that cover first sentences, synopses, and endings, it's time to kick things up a notch and combine them all into...


Flashfictionlighting The Flash Fiction Challenge

This challenge was suggested by cxterri, thanks for the great idea! For this challenge, authors will need to submit an entire story (that means beginning, middle, and end!) in 100-110 words. The genre, topic, and everything else is up to you, so get writing! Deadline to submit is May 28, 2010.

But before you run off, check out the winning ending, by AlexVolt

Someday

"Are we doing odd seats or..."  The Host craned over the last row of the audience to see Judge's ruling.  She consulted her notes.

A thumbs up.

Half the crowd roared its approval, a ripple from the other half balked.

"Are we ready," the Host screeched.  Another frenzied applause shook the studio.  A few even gripped their smoothed, orange-sized stones, knuckles bleached from the strain.

On the stage Graham braced though all he could do was turn his head.  He looked at his new ex-wife, offstage.  Her eyes grew as wide as saucers. 

"Your verdict!"

A few whistled past but most connected.

Got Tough Skin?




The next Guest Author on the WEbook blog is Natalie Whipple. Writer of Young-Adult fiction and awesome blog entries. Natalie was nice enough to take a short break from her blog and spend some time at WEbook writing about how to take rejection in the publishing world.

Take it away, Natalie!






Toughskinturtle Even if you’ve just barely jumped into publishing, you’ve probably heard something like this: You have to develop a tough skin to make it in this business. Rejection is just part of the process. Deal with it.
 
Well, my skin is about as tough as tissue paper. And not the nice stuff—more like the public restroom stuff that disintegrates if you look at it wrong. For a long time I thought this meant I wasn’t fit to be published or even fit to try. I pictured everyone in the publishing business as these strong people devoid of emotion. They would laugh at weakling me if I even thought about crying.
 
After chickening out for several years, I finally decided to attempt the whole finding-an-agent thing. I figured maybe I’d develop this tough skin that I supposedly needed.
 
Every time I got a rejection, it stung. I held out hope that one day maybe it wouldn’t hurt. Maybe I just needed a lot of rejections to make my skin stronger. So I kept going, secretly ashamed that a partial rejection could make me cry so much. Real writers don’t cry!

But then I started hanging out with other writers, and I discovered a wonderful thing—rejection made them feel bad, too! Not that I was happy they felt sad, it’s just that I wasn’t alone with my shameful sensitivity. All of these “soft skinned” writers have been quite successful, and it gave me hope that I might see that success as well.

That’s not to say the idea of tough skin is completely wrong; I just think we often misread it as meaning strong and impenetrable. To make it in this business, I would say you need a different aspect of tough skin: Resilience.

Resilience doesn’t only come through toughness, though. You can be one of those Bobo dolls that always gets knocked over but pops right up again. Or you can be like Wolverine, who gets wounded often but heals up quick. Or you can be a ninja, who poison darts anyone who resists…wait, no, don’t do that. Maybe stick with the Bobo doll in this case, I’m getting caught up in weird analogies again.
 
The point is, I still cry sometimes when I get rejections or bad critiques or whatever. It hurts me. I’m not proud of that, but I’ve learned it’s okay to feel that way. I don’t have to be tough-skinned to make it in publishing. After my pity party, I just have to pick myself up and keep moving forward.



And carry a few poison darts. Just in case.





Natliecrop Natalie Whipple is a YA writer represented by Nathan Bransford of Curtis Brown, Ltd. When she's not writing she spends most of her time keeping her two little ninjas out of trouble, which is as hard as it sounds. Ninjas love trouble. Check out her great blog at betweenfactandfiction.blogspot.com or follow her on Twitter @nataliewhipple.



Write, Rinse, Repeat




6a00e54ff9f2cf88340120a786bd73970b When I got up this morning, my calendar reminded me that I owed WEbook a column. Now, I love writing these posts. I get excited with every conversation I start or new comment that appears. But I was miffed. I’ve been struggling to find time to work on my novel lately and the column deadline felt like the latest wrench. The upside was that my frustration inspired the perfect topic: routine. 



In past weeks, I’ve discussed the need to read and the ongoing challenge of keeping your confidence up. Both ideas are far easier to manage if you establish a routine with your writing. That means carving out a regular and consistent amount of time to write. This is easier advice to give than to take, I know. We all have commitments—jobs, families, classes, etc. Nonetheless, I can’t stress the importance of making your writing habitual. It differs for everybody, of course, but if I’m trying to produce something I need to hammer away on it regularly, every day if possible, until I complete a draft. It could be an essay, a short story or a full manuscript. I might write for a couple of hours or the whole day and into the night. If too many days pass when I’m unable to work on something, I lose my handle on it. I forget the larger points I was trying to make, the nuances of certain characters and the small details that I intended to turn into big things later. And I have to go back and painstakingly review what I’ve already written.



I also believe that routine is the handmaiden of inspiration. It can be easy to simply say that one feels blocked or uninspired to write at a particular moment. My feeling is that the best writing moments happen randomly, so it helps to be in your chair and in front of the screen when they arrive. Luckily, for now, I’m able to dedicate large amounts of time to writing. I find if I just wait long enough, if I pick away at something for a while, eventually inspiration arrives. And this happens every day. Sometimes it’s for fifteen minutes and sometimes it lasts for hours, but as long as I’m focused it appears. And that, I think, is a matter of routine. My writing brain knows that I will be in front of the computer almost every day for a set amount of time and (usually) it cooperates.



So what do you do if you’ve settled into a good routine and you’re still not producing? Write something else—an email to an old friend, a personal essay that you might publish, a blog post. It doesn’t matter really, as long as you use your regularly scheduled time to write, to maintain the habit. If it’s just not happening for me, I go for a run to clear my head and then I add an extra half hour onto my writing time.



So, the question is: What is your writing routine and how do you keep yourself true to it?



--JohnnyM 


JMHammock1 John Meils is currently finishing a first novel, tentatively titled The Warring House. He has written for Elle, Men’s Health, and MyTango.com, among others. To learn more about him, visit johnmeils.com.



Ken Wright Returns with Answers for "Ask the Agent"





Asktheagent A few weeks ago, Ken took questions about any and all things related to the author-agent relationship after the book has been sold. There were some intriguing questions asked, and Ken has come back with some informative answers.

Thanks to everyone who submitted a question, and to Ken for taking the time give such great responses. Take it away!




Hi Ken,
Once you have sold a title, does an author have to go through the process of querying you again? Or do you take on an author that you believe will have several more titles to offer?--Amelia Underwood 
 

Good question, Amelia. Generally, when an agent signs up with an author, he or she is there for the duration, meaning for the next book and the next book and beyond. So, no, there is no formal re-querying. What there is, though, is an on-going conversation about the author’s work generally, his or her next book, strategies, etc, with the agent and author working very closely on it together.



I'm curious as to what the agent's editorial role is with a book after it's been sold. Are those responsibilities pretty much passed off to the editor? Or is the agent still in the picture as changes are made to the story prior to publication? --Tim



Tim---typically the agent has little real editorial responsibilities once the book is sold to a publisher. A good agent will have worked closely with the author before then, to read and edit the manuscript (or proposal if it’s nonfiction) to get it into a shape that we both feel makes it saleable. But once it’s sold, it’s really the editor’s job and he or she takes over. Personally, I do like to stay involved throughout the process once it’s been sold in so much as I like to read the revised versions of the manuscript as it goes through the process (when I can find the time!). And sometimes an author and I will agree that I will read a revision before the author sends it back in to the editor, so I can provide some input to the author before it goes back to the editor. Hope that helps!




Once you've sold a clients book, what kind of work takes up the bulk of your time? I guess I'm wondering if you do a lot of coordinating between the author and the publishing house, or if you end up doing a lot of promoting and publicity work through other avenues...or even something that I've probably never thought of as being an agents job! --Max

Hi, Max. This is a good questions and I wish I had one hard and fast answer for you. But it really is book by book. There is a lot of coordinating between my office and the publisher after the deal is made: contract negotiations (typically the deal is made when the standard terms are agreed up: advance, royalties, etc; but there are lots of other points to iron out in a contract before it’s ready to sign); scheduling of the delivery of the manuscript; day to day troubleshooting; liaising about marketing and publicity; making sure payments are made on time; etc.

Thanks for taking all of our questions again! I'm wondering how much leeway there is in the contracts you make with the publishers after they've agreed to buy the book.Is there a pretty standardized contract that gets used most of the time, or do things vary a lot in terms of rights and royalty payments? Is there usually a long round of negotiations with this stuff, or does it go pretty fast once the book is sold? --Donna




Donna, It’s a pretty standard process, with the bulk of the language from publisher to publisher being pretty standard. It’s what we call boilerplate. There are aspects of a deal that are always negotiable, however, such as the advance and royalties (the percentages are pretty set and standard, but sometimes there are opportunities to negotiate where the percentages escalate); the territories that are being granted; various rights that are being granted (things like audio rights or film rights, for example); etc. There generally is a long round of negotiations after the deal is made, but it’s mostly long because everyone in publishing is so busy that it just takes a long time, not because it’s contentious.



Hey Ken thanks for taking questions. I've written a series and the story is there but the technical aspects aren't because I'm not the English major and I've been trying to fix as much as possible. Is it more important that I find an editor to work with or an agent? I know agents work with editors on a regular basis but do all editors have an agents they work with? --Michel




Michel, The key is to get the project into as good as shape as you possibly can before querying an agent. Very often authors will hire a freelance editor to help them get the manuscript into better shape. There’s nothing like a work that is only half way there to turn off an agent. My advice to you is to master those technical aspects, either on your own or with an editor, before being in touch with agents.

Keep your eyes peeled for the next Ask the Agent Q&A. Coming at you soon! While you wait, why not rate some 5 Pages Samples? They're fresh and ready for reading!



Sell the Sizzle, Not the Steak




WEbook's Guest Author Series continues with Grace Coopersmith, author of Nancy's Theory of Style, which will be released on May 18. A bit about the book:

Lively, pretty young socialite Nancy Carrington-Chambers has always believed that an excellent sense of style and strict attention to detail are what it takes to achieve a perfectly chic life. Now, however, her own haute couture marriage is starting to resemble a clearance rack, as husband Todd manifests more and more symptoms of a dread disease—incurable tackiness.

And now, Grace writes about how to make your book sizzle!
    




Selling the sizzle My first job out of college was a publicity internship for a summer rep theater. I was young and had splendid ideas about standards and art, so I wrote stories about the plays’ themes, symbols, and historical context.



Oddly enough, my boss kept rejecting my pieces.



I was annoyed, so I dashed out a satirical promo story using every publicity cliché I could think of. (In those days, I didn’t split infinitives, but language evolves and so did I.) A jaded coworker who smoked too much, drank too much, and played the saxophone very badly grabbed the column before I submitted it. He sat me down and explained that we were selling the sizzle, not the steak. 



Learning what he meant was painful, but eventually I came to see using terms like “wacky, love-struck comedy” was not a moral failing. I discovered that I did not immediately turn to ash if I used exclamation marks and arbitrary capitalization. I found that I could take an ambivalent review and select individual words for a positive blurb, just as one might pick out the grilled prawns from an otherwise lackluster buffet.



Aspiring writers frequently ask me for advice on their agent query letters. A common problem I see is writers trying to tell every detail of the novel in a one-page letter. However, the agent is only interested in reading the menu now. The steak may be divine, but no one is going to order from crayon scrawl on a grimy sheet of cardboard.



The writers should be selling the sizzle. What makes this book different, irresistible, compelling? What makes the author different, irresistible, compelling? Does the writer have a blog with thousands of daily readers? Has the writer landed a plane in the Hudson River? Is the writer a member of a large cult with a lively book club? Is the writer involved with any organization that will assist in promoting the book?



No matter what stage you’re at with your book, you should begin working on the sizzle now. Start a website with a blog. Join online groups and clubs. Attend book signings. Go to bookstores and talk to the staff, who know what sells and doesn’t sell and why. Interview other writers. Submit articles and columns to your local newspapers and magazines. Promote others and provide advice.



And if you should get annoyed about something, imagine that you’ve got a jaded coworker nearby, reeking of booze and cigarettes and experience. He’d tell you to step away from the computer, play a hand of gin rummy, and calm down. Then get back to selling the sizzle. 





MAcostaGrace Coopersmith's novel, Nancy's Theory of Style, will be released May 18. She's been a frequent contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Contra Costa Times, and Spaces Magazine. She's a graduate of Stanford University, where she studied creative writing and theater. Under the name Marta Acosta, she's written the comic Casa Dracula series, which was a BookSense Pick and Catalina Magazine Humor Book of the Year. Simon and Schuster will publish Haunted Honeymoon at Casa Draculain October 2010.To learn more about her books, please visit her websites, www.gracecoopersmith.com and www.martaacosta.com.Or, follow her sizzle on twitter @GraceCoopersmit.








The Short Summary Results + New Challenge!

Short summary graphic This was another "lightning challenge" (only open for one week) but the good summaries came pouring in all the same. Thanks for all of your great submissions! There were tons of original and interesting summaries thrown into the mix.

Writing a good summary is an art in and of itself. Not only does the premise need be engaging, but the summary must be tightly written and well paced to draw the reader progressively further into the story. 

The WEbook editorial staff chose five winners that we felt achieved this goal. Each summary offered an interesting set-up but also added a deft plot-complication within the description.

The Free Coupon Winners:

#1. My Legend by BZAlixandre
#2.
 
The Inner Eye by sigmundsquirrel
#3. Something Inside by CharmingMan
#4. Reciprocal by jwryt
#5. Footwear Royal by ZoeSimon

Congratulations! We hope to see some of these summaries up on PageToFame soon. If you didn't win, don't get down on yourself, the top 100 summaries will receive a 25% discount coupon soon. Watch your in-boxes! Plus, the next writing challenge is already underway and waiting for you:

A Good Ending Challenge 


The End! Since everyone just wrote the beginning/ summary of a novel, we figured the next logical step is for everyone to write an ending. Makes sense, right? 
 


In 100 words or less, write the end of a novel. It can be a made up novel, a partially completed novel, or a finished, polished manuscript. The key here is to make the ending interesting on its own. This is not easy (that's why it's called a challenge). You need to offer a sense of resolution, but also leave room for more things to happen off the page. Read the rest of the details and get started here. The deadline to submit is May 14th at 4pm.


Of course, if you haven't had enough summaries, you can always head to PageToFame and read some more!





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