Book Country Welcomes Authonomy Members

Posted by August 26th, 2015

Narrative_NonFictionWe were saddened to hear about the closure of the Authonomy writing community. Operated by HarperCollins UK since 2008, writers from all over world have really enjoyed using the site and the careers it has launched have been inspiring to watch. According to the Authonomy blog, the site will officially close on September 30, 2015.

Many writers are members of both Book Country and Authonomy. In the past week, we’ve seen even more former “Authonomites” join our ranks, many introducing themselves on this discussion thread started by member Katie O’Rourke (Katie78). It’s been wonderful to meet all these new folks and welcome them into our community! Continue reading

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How Book Country Helped Me Land a Book Deal

Posted by August 25th, 2015

Please welcome Book Country member Audrey Greathouse to the blog! I met Audrey at the San Francisco Writers Conference on a panel designed to let conference participants practice their agent pitch before going to the formal pitch session the following day. Audrey’s pitch for her young adult novel THE NEVERLAND WARS was one of the best in the room: a modern retelling of Peter Pan featuring fourteen-year-old girl Gwendolyn, in denial about growing up. I knew that Audrey would be a terrific addition to our community because at the conference I saw that she is curious, kind, enthusiastic about meeting other writers, and, of course, very hardworking! Her great news this week is that all that hard work paid off: THE NEVERLAND WARS has been picked up for publication by Clean Teen Publishing. Read on to hear how Book Country was a big part of helping her land a book deal.

Audrey Greathouse's blog

From Audrey Greathouse’s blog, audreygreathouse.wordpress.com

So I got my contract signed, my forms filled out, and everything else tidied away and put in the mail last week. The good folks at Clean Teen have them now, and I just get to look forward to scheduling a video chat with the ladies in charge. I think it’s pretty neat that my publisher’s chief officers are all Texan women. That’s just neat. Who would have even conceived of such a thing fifty years back? The internet and twenty-first century are ushering in a lot of interesting change and putting a lot of power in strange geographical places now that anybody can be anywhere.

Which brings me to Book Country.

I am so lucky I found this website and had a chance to discover the possibilities of it while I was at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference six months ago (I can’t believe it’s already been half a year!) I hop around the west coast too much to regularly attend any writers group, but with Book Country I can be anywhere. It’s easy to log on and review manuscripts, and it’s so nice to know that mine is up and open to members for review too. I could not have made the revisions I did without the feedback of the Book Country community, and I feel so grateful to the people on that site who have made it what is it. Continue reading

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What Is a Developmental Edit?

Posted by August 24th, 2015

ThinkstockPhotos-508609021Our guest blogger this morning is editor Christina Henry de Tessan of Girl Friday Productions, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at this year’s San Francisco Writers Conference. She’s here today to break down the nuances of the term “developmental edit,” something you’ve likely heard as you make your way from being a writer to being an author.

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Editing can serve as something of a catchall term that can refer to anything from tinkering with semicolons to removing entire characters or plot threads. This nebulousness can make it confusing to know what you’re even asking for when you’re in search of editorial help. In an effort to make the entire undertaking less opaque—and hopefully less daunting—here are some insights into that crucial first stage in the editorial process: the developmental edit.

Fiction

Character: For fiction, character is paramount. Your characters can be lovable, flawed, complicated, even loathsome, but no matter what, you’ve got to make us care about them. Do we see their vulnerable underbellies and darkest thoughts? Or are you keeping your characters at arm’s length? Does your main character have enough nuance to keep us interested, or is he/she falling flat or being a bit too predictable in places? Does your protagonist evolve over the course of the story? Do the characters feel real? Do we feel invested in their trajectories? Developmental editors are here to make sure your readers are compelled to hang out with your characters until the very last page.

Plot, pacing, and structure: Does the story feel rushed? Are you doling out information in a way that leaves us wanting to turn the page? Or does it drag right at the moment when we want resolution? Is there enough tension? Is the lush setting or history of the time period eclipsing the main plot? Are there awkward information dumps that could be woven in more naturally? Are there any holes? Are you making any problematic leaps in logic? This can seem obvious, but if you’ve worked on numerous drafts of a book, old material may no longer make sense with more recently added material.

Style: Although a developmental edit doesn’t usually focus extensively on the line (sentence structure, repetition of words or phrases, and so on), a dev editor will point out stylistic issues. One that comes up a lot is the classic “Show, Don’t Tell” edict. Writers will often do a fabulous job of showing and then undermine their own great storytelling by telling just to make sure they got their point across. So if young Rose blushes and averts her gaze when the boy she has a crush on approaches her, you don’t need to then tell us explicitly that she felt nervous. The dev editor is there to tell you that your scene can stand on its own two feet—and if it needs extra support, your editor will suggest fixes. Your dev editor will also look at voice and tone—is your dialogue sounding genuine or stilted? Do all the characters sound the same? Does their word choice accurately reflect who they are?

Memoir

With memoir, a developmental edit can be particularly helpful, as it is sometimes difficult for writers to transform their life story into a cohesive narrative comprised of discrete scenes. How do you choose what to tell and what not to? How do you integrate crucial background information in a way that feels seamless? Perhaps most importantly, how do you nail the voice from the very first page so that the reader is drawn into your story?

Nonfiction

Nonfiction is a bit of a different beast. If you’ve written a book on finance, character development is not your primary concern, and ensuring that the plot thickens at just the right moment isn’t relevant. But a developmental editor can work other kinds of magic with nonfiction. Below are some of the most frequent issues that come up with nonfiction.

Audience: It’s imperative that you know who you’re writing for. But this can be surprisingly tricky when you’re an expert on the subject—after all, when you think about financial planning all day long, it can be hard to see what a novice might not know. A good dev editor can hone your language to make it appropriate for your target audience, using the right level of vocabulary and making the right assumptions about your readers’ background knowledge. Have you assumed a level of understanding of reverse mortgages that will leave your readers flummoxed? Your editor will be the one to point that out.

Organization: When you’re a subject-matter expert, it can be hard to see your material from an outside perspective. You’re so deeply immersed in it that it can be difficult to present your argument in a logical fashion. Who is picking up your book, and what do they hope to get out of it? Have you organized your material in such a way that each section builds on the last? Does it give enough foundational information at the outset? Or have you bogged it down with too much background before getting to your message? A developmental editor will point out the holes and ensure that there is continuity so that your readers never once furrow their eyebrows in confusion.

A good developmental editor is like some hybrid of a detective and a psychologist, sniffing out problems and proposing solutions so that you can polish and hone before putting your beloved manuscript in front of a wider audience. In short, we hope you’ll think of us as your secret weapon.

Christina Henry de TessanAbout Christina Henry de Tessan

Christina Henry de Tessan is the vice president of editorial at Girl Friday Productions, a full-service editorial firm headquartered in Seattle. Formerly of Chronicle Books and Seal Press, she’s also the author of several travel books, including Forever Paris and Expat: Women’s True Tales of Life Abroad.

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Vladimir Nabokov Quote: “The pages are still blank . . .”

Posted by August 21st, 2015

Vladimir Nabokov QuoteVladimir Nabokov Quote: “The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.”

Ready to show your writing to beta-readers in the Book Country community? Here‘s how to get started.

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Book Country at the Slice Literary Writers’ Conference 2015

Posted by August 19th, 2015

We are so excited to be headed back to Brooklyn for the Slice Literary Writers’ Conference 2015!

Slice Literary Writers' ConferenceHere’s a description of the conference courtesy of the editors at Slice magazine:

Slice Literary’s fifth annual writers’ conference will take place on September 12 and 13 in downtown Brooklyn. Our panels and workshops will cover topics from the craft of writing (plotting, dialogue, characterization, poetry, and more) to the business of writing (pitch letters, landing a book deal, and beyond). Top editors, agents, and authors will discuss crucial steps to help launch a writer’s career. But a book deal is just the beginning of a writer’s professional journey. We invite leading professionals to offer trade secrets about how they transform a great story into a bestselling book (and what writers can do to help them get there).
Where: St. Francis College, 182 Remsen Street, Brooklyn, NY
When: 10am – 5:00pm, September 12 + 13, 2015
Who: Click here for the list of agents, editors, authors, and publishing professionals who will take part in the conference this year.

All of the many panels are sure to be fantastic, but one of the most unmissable is, of course, the panel I’m moderating called “Unconventional Paths to Publishing.” Here’s the info for that one: Continue reading

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The Stunning Book Cover Designs of Carol Devine Carson

Posted by August 18th, 2015

CC_Devine_Carson_r2 (2)Carol Devine Carson, VP and Art Director at the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, has been designing book covers that have deeply resonated with readers for more than two decades. Her work has been featured in various art shows and design publications, but Carol says that most gratifying for her has been the opportunity to work on great books by an impressive variety of wonderful authors: “Who gets to meet Katharine Hepburn, Julian Barnes, Katharine Graham, John Updike, Bill Clinton, or Julia Child by simply going to work?” Keep reading to hear more from Carol.

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Q: What initially drew you to the world of book cover art design?

CC_Alice's Adventures (2)A: I was fortunate to have beautiful books around me from earliest memory. I never tired of looking at every detail and every color combination in the art. DOCTOR DOOLITTLE IN THE MOON (cover and endpapers) is but one example that still looks fresh and sophisticated to me. I believe the accompanying visual must support the writing and complement it, while bringing fresh ideas and surprise to it as well.

For example, in designing new volumes for the Everyman’s Library series of classic writing, which we launched at Knopf in 1991, I like to imagine a child getting a copy of THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS, THE POPPY SEED CAKES, or maybe ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND.

Q: How would you describe the conceptual processes you follow when creating a book cover?

A: It all begins with the author and the writing. I have designed a few jackets for books that literally stunned me as I read them. The first being DAMAGE by Josephine Hart. I think I could read that book again today and feel the same way. I knew the jacket had to be stark and nonrepresentational, since the characters had to be solely in one’s imagination.CC_Damage_Hart_jkt005 (2)

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Character Development: Creating Unforgettable Characters with Rachel A. Marks

Posted by August 17th, 2015

Darkness-BrutalPlease welcome Book Country member Rachel Anne Marks back to the blog! Rachel’s been a wonderful force of positivity and wisdom here on Book Country for going on three and a half years. We were absolutely thrilled when Rachel announced that Skyscape had picked her up for a 2-book deal. Her young adult debut, DARKNESS BRUTAL, is on sale now. Rachel stopped by the blog this morning to share insights on the incredible character development that keeps her readers coming back for more.

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When we open a book, we begin a journey, and there are several things that help us decide if we’ll keep going. We ask ourselves if we want to hang out in the world of the book, if the questions raised seem interesting, but we also want to follow the lead subject on their journey. As a reader, this is one of my biggest questions when I start reading a novel: do I connect with the main character?

And as a writer, it’s even more important. In order to show a story through the eyes of another, we need to have a strong link to their motives, fears, and conflicts. We need to be almost literally in their shoes if we want the reader to feel that way too. Continue reading

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Dorothy Parker Quote: “I hate writing . . .”

Posted by August 14th, 2015

Dorothy Parker QuoteDorothy Parker Quote: “I hate writing. I love having written.”

What’s your strategy for getting yourself to write when you don’t want to? Share here.

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International Youth Day: Celebrating YA Books on Book Country

Posted by August 12th, 2015

It’s International Youth Day today, and it’s got us reading teen fiction on Book Country. We’d like to share some of our finds with you, and tell you why they kept us turning the pages. 

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The Artists CircleThe Artists Circle by Chelsea Langford

About the book: During the hypercreative Renaissance era, famed artists Michelangelo Buonarroti and Leonardo da Vinci were the first to tap into a creative magic and harness it in their artwork. For many reasons, the world was not ready for this magic to be revealed, but it has been taught in secret for centuries. This story follows a girl, Rosie, as she comes to Florence, Italy, to study art and, under the guidance of a peculiar mentor and her new classmates, discovers her true potential as an artist and the magic that’s in her grasp, lying dormant in her imagination.

Why we love it: We’ve fallen for The Artists Circle’s protagonist, Rosie. Just picture her arriving at Villa Cielo, the school that she hopes will turn her into a true artist: “She’d be known as the late girl—or the girl of the night. The one who was stuck on a plane in stupid Norway—sorry, Norway—while everyone else was finding their new best friends and soul mates or, who knows, artistic nemeses. On the bright side, maybe people would find her mysterious, at least for a while. She could work with that.”

The Neverland WarsThe Neverland Wars by Audrey Greathouse

About the book: Being a teentager is hard enough, but things get even harder for Gwendolyn Hoffman when her goofy kid sister, Rosemary, disappears in the night. She seems lost forever, until Rosemary comes back accompanied by her abductor, Peter Pan. Gwen is soon whirlwinded away from math classes, texting, and all expectations of modern teenagers. She learns that Neverland is facing grave turmoil. Certain adults are actively attempting to find—and destroy—the enchanted island and repurpose its magic to fix national debt and cell reception problems. Now, a teenager caught between worlds, Gwen will have to pick sides, choose between boys, and decipher her conflicting desires to find out what really matters to her.

Why we love it: This modern-day sequel of the Peter Pan story has captured our fancy. There is a brilliant twist: while Peter is still defending his beloved Neverland, he has changed, too. Peter has aged. All the time he has spent in reality, ferrying children back and forth, has added up. It has left him at the same awkward age as The Neverland Wars’ heroine, Gwen…

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How to Use Facebook as an Author Before You Have Published a Book

Posted by August 11th, 2015

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Trust us, you don’t want get started with social media a week before your book comes out. In fact, many writers nowadays have a presence on Facebook and other platforms before they even have a publication date for their title.

Create a fan page. Reference our previous post on how to set up a brand new Facebook fan page. It’s important to reiterate that while you can let people follow your personal profile, it’s preferable to create a page that is exclusively devoted to your author persona, where you can post news and updates about your publications. Put some thought into what you call the page as it will be your online home in the literary community. You can use the title of your book or a variation of your name. We recommend that you simply use your full name and be sure to select the Artist, Band or Public Figure page category and choose the Author designation. Once you do that, the word “Author” will appear under the name of the page as you can see in the below examples. Because of this description and its strategic placement, you don’t need to add “writer” or “author” in the author page name.

Examples

Cultivate good social media habits. Take the time to reflect on what kind of content you want to share on your page. As with any type of writing, you’ll needto fine tune your social media voice and get used to talking to potential readers in a way that feels authentic to you and is a correct reflection on your work as a writer. Figure out how frequently you want to post. Experiment with different types of content and assess the results. Read a book on social media for more ideas! It takes time and consistency to hammer these details out–and you won’t have the luxury to truly focus on building a social media brand for yourself once your book hits the shelves. Continue reading

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