Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Why write?

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer; it sings because it has a song.” -- Maya Angelou

Monday, October 15, 2007

Email Etiquette for Query Letters

Are you emailing your query letters to prospective agents and publishers? If so, I hope you are using the same etiquette you would use for snail mail. That means you begin your letter with Dear Ms. or Dear Mr. Agent. Then you write out your three or four paragraphs using proper spelling and grammar without any text or email shorthand (lol, 4 instead of for, u for you, etc.).The only real format difference is that instead of having your contact information in the letterhead, you can include this info under your signature.

Make sure you follow the submissions guidelines as far as attaching copy or including your writing sample in the body of the email. And don't forget to check and double check the spelling of the agent's or editor's name.

My new ebook, Four Ps to Publishing Success, has a whole chapter dedicated to making yourself attractive to agents and editors. You'll find guidelines on how to prepare a professional letter and eight tips for crafting an irresistible query. Check it out!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Point of View

I was invited to lunch by a friend last week. She said, "You're always so positive and uplifting ... and I've been a little down of late. My book seems stalled, and blah-blah-blah. I need a Shelley boost." Not being one to turn down an opportunity for a free meal or to bask in a little praise, I accepted with enthusiasm.

As we enjoyed our meal alfresco at a downtown sidewalk cafe, my friend remarked that she admired my focus and positive outlook. "You always seem so sure of yourself and what you're doing." In comparison, she said, she was frequently distracted from her writing and discouraged by some recent contest disappointments and difficulty completing a chapter.

I admit to being pleased that I project such a favorable image. But here's the kicker: When I look at my friend, I see a woman writer whose byline keeps popping up in print and Internet columns. In addition, her fiction and nonfiction work has been selected on several occasions in just the last year as a contest winner or runner up--and for some significant cash awards as well! In my estimation, she is a prolific writer and producer of fine quality writing. In fact, in recent months I've envied her continued output while I've been distracted from my personal work.

Point of view is more than just the voice of a character in a work of fiction. It also means having a distinct perspective based on where you stand. I guess I've learned that when I don't like the view from where I'm standing, I move. I turn the pages in my mind until I find a scenario that suits me better.

Hey, we're writers. That means we create our own reality as well as fantasy. So, focus your perspective on a vision of yourself that suits you. And stop examining yourself in a 5X magnifying mirror--learn to overlook your perceived flaws and focus on your talent and your purpose.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Writer's Block or Writer's Excuse?

“What are some of the obstacles you've faced and overcome?” That’s the question I like to ask when I interview people who are leaders in their communities, companies or organizations. Although the individual replies vary, the majority of the responses reveal that each person has managed to transform some type of adversity into opportunity.

What I have observed in my own 30-year career is that the opposite is true as well. Unsuccessful people not only let obstacles stop or delay their progress, they actively put barriers in their paths, preventing them from reaching their goals. We all are guilty of this to some degree. After all, it is easier to say we don't have time to write because we work and have children, homes and mates to look after than it is to get up an hour earlier, go to bed an hour later, or work through lunch hour at the office.

It seems to me that each time I make a concerted effort to rein in my concentration and focus on the completion of a goal, the Universe sends something to tempt me away. Just when I decide to spend the next two weeks finishing the final edit on my book, I get called for a lucrative assignment or interesting project that gives me reason to put my personal work on the back burner—again.

I've decided this is the Universe's way of testing my resolve. It's saying to me, "OK, Shelley. You say you want your book published. For everything you receive, you must give up something. What are you willing to sacrifice to get what you want--some time, some income?”

Without exception, I have regretted my decision each time I placed my goals on hold "just until this next project is finished." And, each time I placed myself ahead of the distraction, and said "no" to stepping off track, I have been rewarded with an inner sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that comes with following my heart rather than my head (or pocketbook). The decision to pursue my true calling has also led to far greater riches in the long run than any assignment ever pays in the present.

Knowing what is the right thing to do and actually doing it are two different things. Most of us need some support to help us hold steadfast to our goals. Being part of two writers groups provided the motivation and support I needed to finish my novel. If I didn't have that commitment to produce a chapter a month, I'd probably never have finished my novel at all.

If you've ever felt the desire to pursue your writing dream, don't let obstacles stop you and, above all, don't construct stumbling blocks to your success. Set attainable goals and find a support system to keep you going when you're tempted to get off track. Finally, start visualizing your book signing or whatever symbolizes the accomplishment of your goal...and know that I'm there with you, cheering you on.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Are you serious?

Lots of new writers contact me with questions about how to get their articles or books published. Some hire me to coach them. A few get past the first critique and assignment. The ones who stick it out get published. Why are the numbers so small? The fault lies not within the publishing industry (or my tutelage); the fault lies within the writer. Most people simply do not want to put in the time and hard work. Many have unreal expectations about what an agent or editor will do for them. Others think once the book comes out, the publisher will spend a small fortune to promote and sell it.

I never discourage anyone from writing. Writing for pleasure and expression is a pleasurable past-time. It's fun and rewarding.

But, if you're serious and want to publish your work, get educated about the publishing process. You've got to love the process or you'll never have the stamina it takes to see your name in print.

My suggestions to all writers who want to become published is to go to a writers' conference, subscribe to writers' magazines and ezines (find suggestions at my website) and join a writers' group. Oh yeah, and buy my workbook "4 Ps to Publishing Success: Get your manuscript off your desk and into print" when it comes out in a few weeks. You'll get a complete overview of everything you need to know about the publishing process and practical information on how to navigate the system. Available as an old-fashioned print book or new-fangled eBook.

Once you know what you don't (now) know you don't know, it's going to seem a lot easier. And your future agent and editor will thank you for it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Write Way

I bought a new mascara the other day and as I was walking away with my puchase, the saleswoman asked, "Do you know the right way to apply mascara?" I shrugged and motioned up and down in front of my eyes, as if I were actually applying the stuff. She shook her head and said, "First take the tip--that's where most of the mascara is when you pull out the wand--and use it apply the mascara to your lashes. Then use the full brush to lift and extend the mascara from the base to the tip of your lashes. You'll use less mascara and get better results." I tried it the next day, and she was right.

It reminded me of my mother's oft-said advice, "If you're going to do something, do it right."

Paying attention to even small details can make the difference between being published or being rejected. Considering that editors and agents receive far more submissions than they can accept, they look for any reason to say no. Something as seemingly small as how the manuscript is presented can land your submission in the slush pile or on its way back to you in your SASE without being read. Wouldn't it be better to just do it right?

Use these guidelines to format your manuscript.

--Use white bond paper (20 lb. stock minimum)
--Use Times Roman or Courier 12 pt. type only
--Type on one side of the paper only
--Double space (single space poetry)
--Use paragraph indents
--Use paper clips only to secure your manuscript
--At the top each page (except page 1), put the page
number, your last name, book or article title

--Justify the right margin
--Add extra space between paragraphs
--Bind or staple your manuscript
--Put your manuscript in a folder
--Try to be cute or flashy with your presentation

Here's another one of my mother's favorite expressions, "You learn something every day."

Monday, August 20, 2007

What do I do now?

I have completed a book about creativity. I know I need an agent since this is not the only book I want to write. Now that I am in rewrite, I thought of you. Whatever thoughts or suggestions you might have, I would gratefully appreciate.--Warren

I went to your website. My very quick analysis: Your topic is sellable, you have good credentials and the potential for building a solid platform. If you're planning or holding workshops already, that's even better. These are all things an agent or publisher would look for. However, for a nonfiction book, you must have a proposal to send an agent or publisher. No exceptions (unless you are a celebrity or have successful past publishing experience).

Since you are in the revision stage of your manuscript, it seems to me that it's the perfect time to focus on your book proposal. This way you can make any necessary adjustments to the book before the manuscript is finalized.

The proposal will help you answer the questions agents and publishers want to know: What's your book about? How is it different from others on the market? Who will read/buy your book? Why are you the right person to write this book? What are you going to do to promote the book? What additional, if any, books are you writing or plan to write?

Book proposals are recommended even if an author is self-publishing because the proposal is a business plan for the book. As your own publisher, you would want to base your decisions on the same information as traditional publishers--that is, if you want to the book to sell successfully.

Your book proposal is a very important step in the process and must be done correctly to garner any attention. There are many good books to help you with format, etc. Many people come to me for help after their proposals are rejected and end up having to redo the entire project, which is a time-consuming activity. My advice to you is to find out how do it right the first time.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Practicing what I preach

I'm baaaack. It's more than a little embarrassing to notice that I haven't posted in more than a year. Ouch! In order to post this morning, I had to jump through a few hoops because Blogger has changed. (Don't you hate that?) But, I did it: I added a new photo, updated my profile and learned how to upload and download photos using Flickr. There is a real sense of accomplishment in taming the "technology resistance" inclination and overcoming the frustration of figuring out what seems to just come naturally to my kids.

Now that I've gone through all this time-consuming activity, I'm determined to stay on top of the blog and post regularly. Blogging is something I recommend to all my clients who are promoting their books and their businesses. So, I'm going to follow my own advice and get back in the groove (now I'm really showing my age, but I suspect a few of you will know what I'm talking about).

So, check back here regularly. I'll be posting writing and publishing tips, answering questions and waxing poetic at times.