Tag Archives: Tips & Advice

How Can Published Authors Use Book Country?

Posted by September 23rd, 2015

 

Nonfiction_Nonfiction

When I’m telling writers about the Book Country community, I often get asked how writers who’ve already published can get involved on the site. Here are a few ways how published authors can use Book Country:

Have a book coming out?

Writers of all levels of experience use Book Country to workshop their manuscripts. We have 1:1 feedback on Book Country, which means that members have to review another writer’s book before they can post their own. We find that for a member’s first review, they are most likely to review a book with a great professional cover, a sharp synopsis, and, of course, a lower word count. Published authors can upload an excerpt of their forthcoming book as a preview. On Book Country, we have a built in audience of members seeking things to read. Just be sure and let the community know that what you upload is your final draft, and be prepared to get suggestions for revision even if you’re not going to use the feedback right now–it might be useful to you later. Be sure to include when and where folks can buy the book when it’s out! You can see how Penguin Intermix author Alex Rosa did this for her book TRYST before it came out last spring.

Already have a book out?

Again, using Book Country as a place to showcase an excerpt is a great way to give your book exposure to a built in audience. This is how I found out about Jessica Hawkins’s book COME UNDONE, and now her Cityscape series is one of my all-time favorite romance trilogies. Book Country’s blog and discussion boards can also help published authors brainstorm new ideas for marketing and promotion (check out how GD Deckard is sharing his experience using Google Adwords for his book THE PHOENIX DIARY), and connecting with other writers will help you build a network of contacts. Last week, when Book Country member Janice Peacock’s cozy mystery HIGH STRUNG was rereleased by Booktrope, she was interviewed on member DJ Lutz’s blog. These two met on the site and have been supporting each other ever since. Continue reading

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Alex Rosa: How I Designed My Book Cover for FAHRENHEIT

Posted by September 22nd, 2015

Happy book birthday to Book Country member Alex Rosa–her latest book, FAHRENHEIT, pubs today!

When I found out that Alex designed this gorgeous, sexy cover for FAHRENHEIT herself, I had to find out more. Alex explains her DIY approach to cover design below.

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Everyone says, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” which is true, but you can’t help but “oohh” and “aahh” over an enticing one. Although we aren’t supposed to take a book at face value, it should still exemplify what the book holds inside at least a little bit, which is what we are all trying to go for as authors in this ever evolving world of publishing. Here’s how I designed my book cover.

Fahrenheit cover lo res

FAHRENHEIT (out today!) is my first leap into the erotica genre, and since it has some risqué subject matter I knew it was important for the cover to feel edgy, sexy, and forbidden. I have a plethora of tools to work with in Photoshop (an Adobe design program), but I knew I wanted an illustrated look to the cover rather than people or places. I wanted something more conceptual rather than realistic.

If you’re choosing to design the cover yourself there are many stock image websites where you can find illustrations and photographs to license.

Recommended stock image websites:

If you can’t find a stock image you like, you can also consider seeking out a favorite photographer that might have a photo in their portfolio for you to license for a fee. Continue reading

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VIDEO: 5 Mistakes Every Writer Should Avoid

Posted by September 21st, 2015

Become a savvier author in 15 minutes!

In this video tutorial, editors Meghan Harvey and Christina Henry de Tessan share the 5 Mistakes Every Writer Should Avoid:

  1. Don’t forget your reader.

  2. Don’t fly blind.

  3. Don’t rush the process.

  4. Your editorial team is on your side.

  5. Don’t wait to build your audience.

Take a seat and get schooled on how you can avoid these mistakes as you work to reach your writing goals.

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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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6 Takeaways from the PNWA 2015 Conference

Posted by July 21st, 2015

Seattle skyline

Seattle, home of the PNWA 2015 Conference

It was a great weekend at the PNWA 2015 Conference in Seattle, talking with agents, editors, and writers about Book Country, social media, and the publishing process. (PNWA stands for the Pacific Northwest Writers Association.) I want to share these six big takeaways from the conference with the rest of the Book Country community:

  1. Finding beta-readers is as important as ever. However you choose to work with beta-readers–whether in a real-life writing group, remotely via email, or on a workshopping site like Book Country–no one can dispute that a writer needs feedback on their manuscript prior to a successful publication.Technology that makes finding beta-readers easy has become indispensable to in-the-know writers.
  2. Feedback can be wide-ranging, but ratings are also revealing. The more feedback a writer gets on their book, the better informed revision decisions they can make. Getting reviews on your book from beta-readers is a great way to seek suggestions on how to revise. But different readers give different suggestions, sometimes contradicting one another. Your overall ratings can be a powerful way to aggregate your readers’ opinions. On Book Country, for example, your overall rating–so long as you’ve spent the time and energy to garner a large number of peer reviews–will help you gauge whether or not your book is ready to be published.
  3. Distribution is everything. Writers have gotten savvier about this since the last time I was at PNWA. Back then, I met a lot of writers who had self-published but their book was not widely available. It’s rare these days to find a writer who isn’t planning to publish their book electronically, and it’s also common for writers to make sure their book is available for many different types of eReader. On Book Country, for example, authors can publish once and simultaneously distribute to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Scribd, Kobo, iBooks, Google, and Flipkart. It’s essential for writers to stay on top of book retail trends.
  4. Social media takes time. Writers at PNWA knew how important it is for them to be growing their social media audience. It’s key to start building a following early, so that when your book does launch, it has somewhere receptive to land. Learning how to use social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, and others now rather than later is a good use of an aspiring writer’s time.
  5. Social media takes time. Wait, didn’t I just say that? To be clear, it’s not just building a social media that takes time. Doing the real work of social media–writing posts, creating engaging images, reading social media feeds, and conversing with followers–takes big chunks of your day-to-day. So not only do you want to start early, you also want to get organized. Writers I met at PNWA were figuring out how to carve out time for social media tasks. One tip Andrea Dunlop shared in our “Dos and Don’ts of Social Media” session was to be realistic about how much time you will be consistently able to devote to your social media. It’s easy to sign up for a lot of accounts, but it’s better to be selectively active than to have a bunch of abandoned online profiles. (Go here for more tips from Andrea.)
  6. Professional author services are the author’s best kept secret. More and more writers–both those seeking self-publishing and traditional publishing–are hiring professional developmental editors, copyeditors, proofreaders, book publicists, marketers, designers, and more. The competition to get noticed is stiff, so figuring out what you need help with to make your book stand out is becoming a bigger part of the publishing process. Many writers are using editorial firms like Girl Friday Productions to develop and polish manuscripts. Authors who find social media either too daunting or too time-consuming are learning how to hire it out to professionals. While these services can be expensive, many writers and authors are finding them to be valuable. I predict that we’ll be discussing this aspect of the publishing industry much more here on Book Country in the next year.

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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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5 Tips for Forming a Daily Writing Habit by Eve Karlin, Author of CITY OF LIARS AND THIEVES

Posted by June 29th, 2015

5 Tips for Forming a Daily Writing Habit by Eve Karlin, Author of CITY OF LIARS AND THIEVESEve Karlin, author of CITY OF LIARS AND THIEVES, shares 5 tips for forming a daily writing habit.

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Persistence Is Key

For me, it is important to have a designated time and place to write. I think J.K. Rowling wrote the first book in the Harry Potter series in one coffee shop. Personally, I need a quiet place with few distractions, and it needs to be the same place every day. My desk is on a landing at the top of the stairs next to a window that overlooks our front yard. My dictionary, thesaurus, and research books are within arm’s reach—so there is no excuse to get up. On the bulletin board in front of my computer, I have an article entitled “In Writing Persistence is Key.” When I wrote CITY OF LIARS AND THIEVES, I hung portraits of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, a photo of the well where the murder took place, and a map of 18th century New York. Not only did these things inspire me, they helped me write better descriptions in my novel.

Some writers use outlines. I keep a table of contents to record what happens in each chapter and jot down ideas for later chapters. I also keep a “recycle file,” which makes it easier to cut things without necessarily trashing them. I can edit faster that way without getting hung up on keeping a certain turn of phrase. These tricks work for me. The most essential component for success is to find a routine and system that works for you.

Don’t Be a Perfectionist

While it is important to establish a routine, it is equally important not to beat yourself up if you slack off for a day or so. The important thing is to get back to it. You should want to get back to it. When I am not writing, my day is not complete. This is not because I am such a natural. It is because writing has become a habit for me.

Nothing is written in indelible ink. If you are working on a first draft, just focus on getting the story down. The most important first step is to simply get the story down. Continue reading

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Re-illustrating the Cover for WISH YOU WEREN’T by Book Country Member Sherrie Petersen

Posted by June 23rd, 2015

Old and new cover for WISH YOU WEREN'T by Book Country member Sherrie Petersen.

We were pleasantly surprised to see the new cover for WISH YOU WEREN’T, a Middle Grade novel by Book Country member Sherrie Petersen. WISH YOU WEREN’T is currently up for peer review on Book Country. Below, Sherrie shares what it was like re-illustrating the cover for WISH YOU WEREN’T with artist Fabián Cobos.

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We all know that the adage about not judging a book by its cover is ridiculous. EVERY book gets judged by its cover.  And while I had a lot of love for the original cover of WISH YOU WEREN’T, I knew it wasn’t conveying the excitement and adventure that readers would find between the pages.

I started studying the covers of my favorite MG sci-fi books, concentrating on stories that were similar to WISH YOU WEREN’T, which blends sci-fi, time travel and magic. When I found covers that demanded to be picked up, I looked inside to find out who the artist was. I discovered that one of my favorite artists had illustrated covers for several books that I liked, so I contacted him…and found out that he charged more to do a cover than I had earned in royalties for the past year. So that was a no.

I kept looking and was lucky enough on my second attempt to find an artist who was super talented and affordable. Hooray! Continue reading

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EXCLUSIVE: Book Country Member Alex Rosa Interview with Best-Selling Author Cora Carmack

Posted by June 16th, 2015

EXCLUSIVE: Book Country Member Alex Rosa Interview with Best-Selling Author Cora CarmackWe are SO excited to have Book Country member Alex Rosa and author Cora Carmack on the Book Country blog! Cora is the New York Times and USA best-selling author of the LOSING IT, RUSK UNIVERSITY, and MUSE series. Alex Rosa released her debut New Adult novel, TRYST, in March, and Cora wrote a wonderful blurb to promote the book: 

“Brother’s hot best friend? A steamy friends with benefits arrangement? What more could you want? Tryst is a fun, tantalizing read!”

Below, Alex and Cora discuss Cora’s new RUSK UNIVERSITY series, book boyfriends, writing, and cats. 

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Alex Rosa:  Antonella DeLuca (a.k.a Nell) is the third girl you’ve introduced as a main character in the RUSK UNIVERSITY Series.  All of your leading ladies have had incredible, strong-willed personalities. Dallas in ALL LINED UP has the will to find herself and get out of her father’s shadow, and Dylan in ALL BROKE DOWN is a passionate activist who tries her best to do what she believes is right and fair. Now we have Nell in ALL BROKE DOWN. What does she bring to the table for this series? What makes her a standout? Is there anything that makes Nell a personal favorite for you?

Cora Carmack: Nell is one of my favorite heroines I’ve written to date. She’s incredibly smart and more than just a little anti-social. Her focus is on her education and accomplishing her goals as quickly as possible. And now she’s about to graduate from college early without ever having what’s considered a “normal” college experience. I love Nell because she just says what she’s thinking, and it’s often quirky and out there and awkwardly honest. I think a lot of book nerds will be able to see themselves in her.

AllPlayedOutCoverAR: Mateo Torres in ALL PLAYED OUT seems like quite a character (and a hot one). I’m eager to find out what demons this possibly perverted (in a good way) hunk have. What’s your favorite thing about Torres, and what do you think makes him book boyfriend material?

CC: I love that Mateo feels like a real guy that I could know. Yes, he’s sexy and sweet, but there’s something so down to earth and genuine about him. He’s the class clown, the shameless flirt, the funny guy who’s always the center of a party. I think we’ve all known guys like him. But by getting into his head, we get to see the fears and insecurities that fuel his outlandish personality. And it just makes him incredibly human.

AR: As a writer, you’ve created these great leading men in your books. But who is your ultimate book boyfriend as a reader? The one who made you swoon first.

CC: The one who made me swoon first? The first time I remember being truly obsessed with a book boyfriend was with Jace from MORTAL INSTRUMENTS. He was so snarky and funny with a bad boy edge. Sexy + funny will always hook me. Continue reading

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How to Analyze Your Bad Writing Habits—and Break Free From Them by Lexa Hillyer

Posted by June 3rd, 2015

Lexa Hillyer is the author of PROOF OF FOREVER.

What are your bad writing habits? Lexa Hillyer is the author of PROOF OF FOREVER, a debut young adult novel published by HarperCollins. Below, Lexa analyzes the bad writing habits that stop you from reaching your full potential.

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Since long before penning my own first novel, PROOF OF FOREVER, I have been an editor of teen fiction. I worked for several years at Harper and then at Penguin before I started Paper Lantern Lit, a boutique literary development company. I’ve always said that editing is kind of like therapy—your most important job as an editor is to help your writers better articulate what they want. Often what that really means is helping them get out of their own way and freeing them of whatever “bad habits” are holding them back.

In order to discover your own bad habits and become your own best therapist, I’ve put together a few key steps:

1) KNOW THYSELF.

The first thing you need to establish is the answer to the following questions:
What kind of writer AM I?
What exactly is it that I’m trying to do?
What is it that makes my project “ME”?

2) STUDY YOUR HEROES.

It’s just as crucial that you know what you are NOT trying to do. Avoid vague and general ambitions like “I want to become the next J.K. Rowling.” Instead, really zero in on the strengths that you particularly pride yourself in, the things you love most about Rowling’s work, the elements you are striving to emulate, and why.

The more granular you can get, the better. Here’s where a lot of us trip up. We think: Rowling is so good at making up an alternative world, and that’s what I want to do. Then we go crazy creating a super-complex, potentially even impenetrably convoluted fantasy world that lacks all the appeal of the Potter franchise. Basically, we over-deliver. Instead, you want to figure out HOW she does what she does so well. Try and break it down into concrete actions. In what chapter does the character depart from the real world and under what circumstances? What are the characters’ very first impressions of the alternate world? How much of the rules are established right off the bat? Continue reading

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