July 26, 2013

Teaming up for Revision

When fiction is submitted to the Kid’s Imagination Train magazine, word count is the first thing that is checked.  If the piece is within our word range, the submission is eagerly read. If it exceeds word count, the submission is still read, but it may be rejected because shorter pieces are preferred.

Next, the piece must appeal to children.  Lastly, the submission should have the potential to be easily illustrated.  That’s the beauty of KIT.  Children have the opportunity to illustrate their favorite features. 

If the story meets word count, appeals to children and can be illustrated, but tells instead of shows, is negative, or portrays an unlikable character, a revision is required.  Some editors would reject a story at this point.  But if the piece has promise, I contact the author about editing the manuscript.

When revising submissions for KIT, I work with the authors and allow them to participate in the editing process.  We may focus on creating a kid-friendly character, finding better word choices, or strengthening dialogue.  Upon receiving my suggestions which aim at keeping the plot intact, the author may wish to use all of the ideas or use some of them, or totally rewrite the story.  Then the author sends me her revision. This goes on like a tennis match sometimes, batting ideas back and forth until we are both satisfied.

In my experience, very few submissions are instantly ready for publication.  Revision is part of the writing process.  Having a second reader can be beneficial in getting feedback about the manuscript.  But ultimately, the piece must pass the editor's standards.  Working with an editor helps writers to understand what is expected.  They learn specifically how to identify and then rectify the problematic parts of their story. During the process, patience and dedication is required.  But in the end, revision pays off.  When editor and writer work together, they give a manuscript the loving attention it rightfully deserves.    

July 22, 2013

Thank you

Two simple words—thank you—carry a lot of weight.  Writers should use them often. How often do you thank someone? 

Here are some (and of course there are many more) occasions in which writers can put those two words to work:    

*when a friend agrees to critique your work
*when people tell you they like your blog or writing
*when a publisher sends you a complementary copy
*when a writer guest blogs for you   
*when a follower leaves a comment for your blog
*when an expert offers to review your work
*when an expert agrees to an interview 
*when an editor has accepted a piece for publication
*when an editor has rejected a piece, but has offered ways to revise
*when an agent provides feedback on a manuscript

These two simple words cost nothing, I repeat, nothing.  So use them sincerely and often. Know that when you say “thanks,” you have brightened someone else’s day.

Image courtesy: Clipart

July 15, 2013

Hiring a Publicist

Last week, I blogged about publicists.  And it's got you thinking.  You want to create buzz about your book, but you're still unsure about hiring a publicist.  

In an article in the Huffington Post, Fauzia Burke, the founder and president of the publicity and marketing firm FSB Associates says, "Most authors know that a public relations effort for their book is essential for their success.  In order to have a campaign to promote their book comprehensively, many look to augment their publisher's efforts by hiring a PR agency." 

If you're interested in hiring a publicist, Burke says authors need to do five things:

* identify goals---what do you want to achieve?
* get referrals from other authors---get names and compare and contrast agencies
* check on prices, timeline, and availability---find out more about their area of expertise
* call the publicist to ask questions---get a preliminary proposal
* research the agency online---check past and current projects and their social media   connections

Some publicists plan and implement entire publicity campaigns, organize appearances on big blogs with a high number of followers, and arrange radio and television interviews to showcase your product to a large number of potential customers.  They find ways to put your book on the NY Times Bestseller list and set up magazine write-ups, book reviews, and book club readings. 

According to Burke, a good PR agency should give you valuable information for building your brand and to amplify the exposure you are getting.  Burke advises, "In the end, it is all about the collaboration—so pick your team carefully."  

For more on the article by Fauzia Burke, check out this link:

July 7, 2013

What a Publicist Can Do for You

You’ve written a great book.  Let’s suppose an editor likes it so much that she wants to publish it.  What’s next after signing the contract?  You’ll need to market your book.  Say what?  Isn’t that what the publishing house is supposed to do?  Yes, to some degree.  Each publishing house has their own marketing strategy, but the author is expected to do marketing as well.  This task can be daunting; therefore, you may want to consider hiring a publicist.

Publicists can help you create your platform before your title is released to help you get noticed.  Successful launching of a book requires pre-promotion.  This may take up to a year before your title is released. 

Gail Kearns, President, Project Editor, and Production Coordinator of To Press and Beyond says, "Promoting a book takes a  lot of time and dedication, not to mention perseverance. As a book publicist, one of the first initiatives I like to tackle is the Big Idea, or how to position the book to get optimum results in garnering reviews, interviews, and features." 

"Another responsibility of the book publicist is to create marketing materials, such as press releases, author bios, questions for media, and talking points," says Kearns. "I don't suggest authors do this themselves, even if they think they can. Writing press materials is far different from writing a book. Veteran publicists have a lot of experience in crafting marketing materials that are more likely to bring results, whether it be a pitch to a radio host or to the event coordinator at a bookstore."

Kearns believes that bloggers are the new reviewers. She says that publicists are blog researchers and they have databases of media contacts and bloggers. Publicists worth their salt have established relationships with many of them.  "Hiring a publicist saves the author hours and hours of time building a list of media and bloggers, making contact, pitching, and following up. Hiring a publicist lends credibility to an author's promotional efforts," says Kearns.

Publicists can provide branding, trade and niche marketing, press kit development, and website development.  More, publicists step in to navigate the complex world of social media and present you with smart opportunities to help get the word out about your book.

For more information check out:  To Press & Beyond is a full-service book shepherding agency. For more information on their services, visit www.topressandbeyond.com or email gail@topressandbeyond.com

June 28, 2013

Keep 'em Coming Back

Whether you write for children or for adults, you most likely have a blog—which leads to a question:  do you blog about yourself or do you blog to inspire others?  After reading several writers’ blogs, I found a good majority of writers focus on themselves.  “Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” to quote comedian Jerry Seinfeld, yet it’s surprising to think that an audience would continue to read posts that center on a writer’s life.  

If however, you enjoy blogging about yourself, don’t despair.  There are ways to keep and even grow an audience.  The recipe for writing a slice of life blog includes three important ingredients that are easy to incorporate.

1.  The blog must be unique.  Specifically, the blogger needs to find a way to make the mundane exciting.  This can be done by writing a post in an unusually creative or entertaining manner.   For example, check out: www.sharonkaycreech.blogspot.com.  Author Sharon Creech includes photos and writes short posts that read like poetry.

2.  The post should conclude with an up-beat or encouraging message.  Readers want to feel uplifted, not powerless or depressed.   Put a positive spin on tough situations.  Give the audience hope.

3.  The blog needs to be relatable.  In other words, bloggers must connect with their audience and appeal to the widest human interests.  This can be achieved by providing “take-away” value—something readers may appreciate or learn from and apply to their lives.

Humor is not a requirement in writing slice of life; however, if the blog is hilarious, then chances are it’ll have a huge following.  But then here’s the rub:  How do bloggers know they are funny?  Unfortunately, there’s no meter to gauge that.  I do know that when someone is funny, they don’t just write funny.  They live and breathe funny.  It’s an organic part of who they are.  Funny people can take the most ordinary thing and make it hilarious.  For them, entertaining others is effortless and natural.   

Bloggers that focus on themselves must make their posts worth reading if they want to retain an audience and grow followers.  It’s like the kid in the AT & T commercial with Beck Bennett who answers the “What’s better, more or less” question with:  “We want more.” Likewise, readers want more and it’s a blogger’s job to deliver.  Bloggers who write about their lives need to be aware of their audience.  Successful bloggers know that means making their posts unique, positive, and relatable. That’s why successful bloggers have their audience always coming back for more.

June 23, 2013

Story vs. Situation

Editors publish stories, not situations.  What's the difference?  Conflict is absent in a situation.  For example:  If a child spends the day at the zoo with his parents, rides the train, and has a picnic lunch, then it's a situation, not a story.  But if the child is gets lost at the zoo, then conflict has been created and you have the beginnings of a story.

A story needs to have a main character who faces a problem.  The earlier the conflict is mentioned, the better.  It will create tension and interest and will hook the audience.  The conflict should be relevant to a child, something he could experience or is likely to understand.  More, the problem must be solved by the main character.

Take for example the wonderful picture book,      I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen.  The book is not just about a day in the forest with a bear and his woodland friends.  The bear has a problem: his hat is missing and he wants it back.  One by one, he asks each animal he comes across if they have seen his hat.  He gets despondent until a deer refreshes his memory.  So, the bear renews his search and succeeds in finding his hat, which in the end, leads to a humorous implied conclusion. 

Ask yourself these questions when you write your story: 
Does the main character have a problem that he eventually solves by himself?
Is there action, a climax, and a resolution?
Will solving that problem change the main character in some way?

If you’ve answered “yes” to these questions, then you gone beyond a situation and you likely have a very good story to tell.

June 17, 2013

Passion Sells

If you want people to take notice, you need to have passion.  This is true for any career or profession, not just for children’s writers.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I went shopping for the tree of my dreams—a yellowwood tree.  When we visited Garden Center “A,” we were greeted by an employee who admitted he didn’t know much about the tree and preferred to talk about his hometown.  We noticed his lack of interest.  He really didn’t seem to care whether we found a tree or not.  He did however, ask another employee to help us out.  The second fellow knew very little about the tree, but he did Google it.  But, I could have done that. 

We drove to Garden Center “B,” expecting better service; and here too, the salesperson lacked interest.   He was polite and showed us an assortment of trees, yet he didn’t seem to care whether we found the flowering shade tree we sought.  

We drove to one more garden center located close by.  An employee at Garden Center "C" listened carefully to what we wanted and promptly showed us the tree we had in mind.  Then, he piqued our curiosity with a tree we had never considered.  It was a beauty, a Kwanzan cherry tree; and, it met our requirements.   Later, we walked back to the office where he showed us a chart in which the owner had scored and rated trees, so we could get a feel for how the yellowwood compared to other shade trees. 

The salesman was knowledgeable and passionate about trees and it showed.  What amazed me was, I had had my heart set on a yellowwood tree for over twenty years, but after discussing the other option, and I was convinced that it wasn’t the best tree for us.  

So back to passion and to its connection to writing.  Passion sells!  I think this is what counts when you submit your work to an editor or agent.  Your passion must show in your query.  It’s all about finding the perfect words to let the love of your work shine through.

If you have the chance to speak with a publisher during a conference or to pitch your book, passion must be evident in your delivery and in tone of your voice.  When you sell your story, being low-key and shy may work against you. 

Whether you pitch an editor or write a query, your excitement and commitment to the story must be felt.  You and your work are a package that publishers consider as a whole.  Editors and agents will take notice when you are passionate about your work.  Trust me, it’s contagious.  Of course, the writing has to be sensational, but when passion is evident they will be dying to get their hands on your story.

Photo courtesy of Mr. Jack's Farm
And so what of tree-shopping trip?  Because of the sales person’s enthusiasm, we changed our minds about buying a yellowwood tree.   His passion convinced us.  No regrets.  The rose-like, pink flowering Kwanzan cherry tree now blooms in our backyard.