Tag Archives: Getting Published

4 Reasons to Go to a Writers Conference

Posted by September 29th, 2015

We’ll be meeting up with longtime Book Country member and romance writer Noelle Pierce this weekend at Moonlight and Magnolias 2015, the annual conference of the Georgia Romance Writers in Atlanta. Below Noelle (who’s been involved in the Moonlight and Magnolias Conference for many years) offers 4 reasons to go to a writers conference.

  1. To network with other writers at various stages in their careers. A conference is one of the best places to meet a critique partner or writing mentor. It’s also a place to be with like-minded individuals. I cherish those few days a year where I can walk up to virtually anyone and have something in common with him/her.
  2. To pitch to editors and/or agents. Some of us have a hard time translating our enthusiasm for a project into the written word. Sometimes talking about our stories leads to an infectious excitement that makes others want to hear more. If you’re one of the latter, then a conference is the perfect place to get your story to an industry professional. This doesn’t have to be at a formal pitch session, but at a luncheon or at the bar. NEVER, under ANY circumstances, follow an editor or agent into a restroom to pitch. It won’t end well. In that same vein, I’ve met editors and agents when I didn’t have a book to pitch, and we ended up talking about the stories anyway. They often suggest I query them when the story’s ready, which means I have something specific to put on the query letter in that “why I chose to send this to you” section.
  3. To hone your craft, get inspired, or learn something new about the changes in our industry. Workshops are part of conferences. You can take sessions with bestselling authors, eager to teach you what they know. Learn about different topics, such as branding yourself, audiobooks, or even how a seasoned pantser can learn to embrace the joys of plotting (I’m a plotser, myself, so I see the good in both). Characterization, dialogue, setting up Goal-Motivation-Conflict in scenes, how to format your book for self-publishing, how to find time to write, what to look for in a book cover…these are all areas I’ve had the pleasure of learning at various conferences. If there’s an area you need to improve, workshops are the place to do it.
  4. To meet readers. There is usually a book signing that takes place at the conferences I’ve attended, and those are usually open to the public. Some conferences rely heavily on authors attending (e.g., Romance Writers of America’s Annual Conference), but many are also open for readers and fans to attend (e.g., The Romantic Times Convention). Some, like Authors After Dark, are more geared toward the readers/fans, with only a relative handful of writers attending as “authors.”

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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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Ask a Literary Agent: Amy Cloughley Answers Your Questions

Posted by July 13th, 2015

Amy CloughleyPlease welcome literary agent Amy Cloughley of Kimberley Cameron & Associates to the blog today! Amy’s in the market to acquire the following types of books: Historical; Literary; Mainstream; Mystery and Suspense (all types but NO paranormal); Thriller (legal, grounded, psychological); Women’s Fiction; Adult Nonfiction (pop culture and humor, sports, narrative, memoir–travel). Like Book Country, Amy will be at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference at the end of this week. If you’ll also be at #PNWA15, you’ll be able to find Amy at the Agent Forum on Friday, July 17, at 10:00am, and at Power Pitch Sessions A, D, & E on Friday and Saturday.

When do you need an agent?  How do you know when you are ready as a writer to take this step? – Claire Count

There are a variety of great options for publishing your work, but if your goal is to be traditionally published, your odds of success increase quite a bit if you work with a qualified agent. Although many small/mid-sized publishers will consider unagented work, most of the larger houses will not, and the publishers who do often give priority to agented submissions.

You will know you are ready to take this step when your manuscript (or book proposal for nonfiction) is your best, most polished work. Although an agent will often provide some feedback to clients, an agent is typically looking to take on projects/clients who are as close to ready for the marketplace as possible. So be sure to do your research and due diligence. What is the typical word count for your genre? Is your POV clear and consistent? Are your main characters fully developed? Is your pacing appropriate for your genre? Did you have quality beta readers provide feedback? Did you identify a few current comparable titles to include in your query? There are numerous websites such as WritersDigest or here at BookCountry, as well as countless books and classes, that cover how to prepare your manuscript for publication. Applying this information will help your manuscript get an agent’s attention. Continue reading

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Book Country at ThrillerFest and PitchFest

Posted by July 7th, 2015

Headed to ThrillerFest X this week? So is Book Country!

ThrillerFestCome visit the Book Country table on Thursday, July 9th, between 2-5:30pm on the Ballroom Level of the Grand Hyatt NYC. We’re going to be tabling during the PitchFest event, where hundreds of thriller writers will giving their 3-minute novel pitch to dozens of agents.

ThrillerFest is the annual conference of the International Thriller Writers, a writers’ organization that represents professional thriller writers from around the world. Continue reading

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How I Turned My Hilarious Love Life into a Science Experiment (and later a Novel) by Melissa Pimentel

Posted by February 4th, 2015

LOVE BY THE BOOK by Melissa Pimentel

Melissa Pimentel is the author of the newly published LOVE BY THE BOOK, which details her foray into following a different dating guide for a month in London and blogging about her experience. This “science experiment” eventually led to Melissa landing a publishing deal with Penguin Books! Melissa shares her whirlwind journey to publication with us below. 

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  1. First there was the idea. It was 2009, and I was single, living in London, and finding that, when it came to men, things seemed to be getting lost in translation. Frustrated by my lack of success on the dating front (and always in search of a funny story), I decided to turn my life over to the experts: every month, I’d follow a different dating guide and record the results.

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5 Considerations for Sequel Writing by Hillary Jacques

Posted by September 10th, 2014

Hillary Jacques on sequel writing

Welcome Urban Fantasy author Hillary Jacques! Hillary has been a Book Country member since 2011, workshopping THIS IS DALTON and BROKEN IN. Her new book, CARNIEPUNK: RECESSION OF THE DIVINE, will be out in December and is published by Simon and Schuster. Hillary shares advice on sequel writing. 

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Writing a first novel is like going on a carnival ride in a foreign language. Even when you think you know what’s happening, there are these moments of pure discovery where you round a corner and find a ghost town or a nemesis long thought dead. It’s almost magical. And then comes the sequel.

Writing a sequel isn’t as simple as getting in line for the ride again. Nope. The author boards, ticket in hand, but instead of bumping along a familiar set of tracks, there are all these considerations to deal with. Details, development, and continuity. Half of them have been explained before, and the other half have changed. So what do you do? Continue reading

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Assistant Editor Michelle Meade on the Editorial Process

Posted by September 9th, 2014

“Never feel that your book is finished before you get started in the editorial process.” Michelle Mead, now Assistant Editor at MIRA Books, an imprint of Harlequin, gives advice to new authors starting the editorial process.

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Slice Literary Writers Conference: What’s All This Talk About “Platform,” and Do I Really Need One?

Posted by September 5th, 2014

Are you headed to the Slice Literary Writers’ Conference tomorrow?

I will be there, speaking on a panel called “What’s All This Talk About “Platform,” and Do I Really Need One?” from 2:45-4:00pm in Room 3203.

Here’s what the panel is all about:

It seems that writing a great manuscript is not enough to attract a publisher. Many say you aren’t publishing material unless you have a “platform.” But what exactly counts as a platform, and is it really that important? Agents and editors talk about how platform influences publishers, how best to spend your energy building one (or not), and how the definition and importance of platform changes depending on what you’re writing.

Panelists: Emily Griffin, Editor, Grand Central Publishing; Kirby Kim, Agent, Janklow & Nesbit; Lucy Silag, Community and Engagement Manager, Book Country; Terra Chalberg, Agent, Chalberg & Sussman; Maya Ziv, Editor, HarperCollins

Moderator: Joshua Bodwell, Author and Executive Director of the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance

Slice Magazine

The Slice Literary Writers’ Conference is hosted by Slice Magazine, a fantastic publication that “aims to bridge the gap between emerging and established authors.”

If you’ll be there, I hope you’ll join us for what promises to be a spirited and informative conversation about the writer’s platform and what that means.

I’ll also be tweeting as much as I can from the conference, and I’m sure there’ll be lots of interesting tips and tweets coming from other participants as well. Follow the official conference hashtag #SMC14 as well as #SliceConference to stay in the loop!

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Ask an Editor: Jessica Renheim Answers Your Questions!

Posted by August 27th, 2014

http://www.penguin.com/meet/publishers/dutton/Today we present another round of your questions for an editor–this week, answered by Dutton associate editor Jessica Renheim. Jessica has worked with New York Times bestselling authors like Brad Taylor, Dan Savage, Richelle Mead, and Kelley Armstrong. Read on for her advice to members of the Book Country community.

1.  What should a person look for in an editor? (Specifically for ones who will be working closely with you.) Also, should you have your manuscript completely finished before looking into editorial services? – Amber Wolfe

If you’re an aspiring writer who’s interested in traditional book publishing, then the first step is finding a literary agent who can represent your work and connect you with an editor and publisher. There are great sources online like Publishers Marketplace and the Literary Marketplace that can help you research agents and determine individuals who are the right fit for your manuscript; you don’t want to blindly query agents (or editors) who only work on nonfiction if you’ve written a psychological thriller, for example. Find an agent who specializes in the genre you’ve written, who feels passionate about your work, and who can help you find an editor who feels the same way. In terms of manuscript length, literary agents usually have their preferences listed on their websites for how to submit queries and material to them. Continue reading

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Ask an Editor: Alexandra Cardia Answers Your Questions!

Posted by August 22nd, 2014

Book Country Ask an EditorWelcome to Part III of Book Country’s Ask an Editor blog series. Alexandra Cardia, Assistant Editor at Riverhead Books, talks about the most rewarding thing about being an editor and deciding whether to work with a particular manuscript. Read Part I and Part II of Ask an Editor.

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1.  Generally how far do you read into a submitted book before deciding it’s trash or good enough to work with? – BoJo Johnson

It really depends on the project. Nonfiction projects are generally submitted as a proposal, and I read proposals front to back; you need to, I think, to get a full picture of the work. For fiction, how far I read into a work is generally dependent on two things: First, if I connect to the writing. If I don’t, I’ll know that pretty quickly and know that the work is probably a pass for me. Second, if I like the writing, I’ll read for story. This can take anywhere from a couple dozen pages to the entire manuscript. Sometimes I’ll read an entire manuscript and only then know that it’s not the right fit for me. So it really does depend on the work! Continue reading

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