Saturday, January 31, 2009

Will your manuscript be accepted?

I often receive requests for feedback on a book idea or completed manuscript.  Authors will typically send their outline or chapter sample and ask me one of the two questions below:

Q: "What do you think about my book [idea]?"

A:  What I think--or what any agent or editor will think--about your idea will depend on how you present your material. When reviewing fiction or nonfiction, we're open to all good ideas that will entertain, bring new information to the market, or fill a documented need in the marketplace.

The truth is that you have far more control over whether or not you get published than you think. Use these guidelines to evaluate your manuscript before sending it out or attempting to self-publish.

Be able to document why your book will sell. Who will read it and why? And, please, supply more than your opinion and that of your family and friends. Mention articles in major print publications and topics of popular movies and books that relate to your book subject. Show us surveys that were done by impartial, reliable organizations (Gallop Polls, U.S. Census, etc). Document current trends that indicate an audience for your topic.

Explain why you are the right person to write this book. Are you an expert? Do you have personal experience with the subject? Are you already addressing your audience via writing, speaking or practice? If you can provide persuasive copy about yourself and your idea, almost any agent or editor in your genre will be happy to consider your manuscript for publication--which brings me to Q#2.

Q: I've submitted this manuscript to agents and publishers and I keep getting rejected. What's wrong with it?"

A: There's a host of possible answers to this question that have nothing to do with the quality of the manuscript. Here's a few reasons why you may be receiving rejection letters:

  • You spelled the agent or editor's name wrong.

  • You sent it to an inappropriate recipient (e.g., your cookbook to a fiction agent).

  • You sent your entire 800-page, two-book manuscript, spiral bound, without first sending a query requesting permission to follow up with a book proposal or novel synopsis. (Never staple or bind your manuscript, even if it has been requested.)

  • You didn't follow submission guidelines.

  • You mentioned that Oprah will love your book.

  • You listed all your relatives and friends or other nonprofessional readers who love your work.

  • Your letter contained spelling and grammatical errors.

  • You referenced all your previous rejections and lack of writing experience.

  • You sent a three-page letter explaining your reason for writing the book and a detailed description of the contents.

Most likely, however, the reason your manuscript was rejected was because

  • You didn't include the information they are looking for as specified in the answer to Q#1.

Remember when I said you have more control over getting your work being published than you think? You can dramatically increase the odds of getting a positive response instead of a rejection letter just by improving how you present yourself and your work. What good is an excellent manuscript if no one reads it?

Please consider these responses even if you are self-publishing. Although you may not need the approval of an agent or editor, you do have to prepare your work in a professional manner if you expect to sell the book or garner any respect once you've published it. You want to ask yourself the same questions an agent or editor would ask.

The best advice I can give you is to become educated about the publishing industry. Learn about the process; become familiar with expected standards. Read industry publications online and offline, take classes and attend workshops and conferences. If you want to cut light years off your learning curve, seek professional help. A good editor or consultant is well worth the investment if you are serious about your work. As a cost-effective alternative to private coaching, join VIP Authors Inner Circle for ongoing mentoring and  get 4Ps to Publishing Success as part of your program. 

I'd like to support your efforts in reaching your goal. You can email your questions to me or comment on one of the blogs. I'll answer as many as I can in next Wednesday's free teleseminar: "What's the best way to get published? Your questions answered."

Will 2009 be your year to see your name in print? It's up to you.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Use Your Journal to Warm Up for Writing

For many writers, just getting started is a challenge. That's usually because they're  expecting the words to flow out  in perfect order. Or  worse, they're waiting to "be inspired." Ha.

You wouldn't jump into physical exercise without warming up. Why expect your brain to be any more prepared to perform well on demand than your muscles?

Honor yourself and your muse with respect for the craft. Here's some tips to get you in the writing flow:

 1. Buy a journal that appeals to your senses. Not just a notebook or tablet. Use a hardcover, bound book. Your thoughts are important and deserve to be recorded in a volume worthy of your words. Spiral-bound notebooks or pads don't suggest permanence or quality.

2. Purchase a pen that you use only to write in this journal. Consider the color of the ink, the thickness/thinness of the writing tip and how it feels in your hand. Write at least one page every day at the same time. Experiment until you find the time of day that feels best to you. You can write more, if you feel it; but do not write less than one page per day.

3. If the page per day doesn't feel right to you, buy a timer. Start with 5 minutes per day. Gradually increase to 15 minutes or more. Write without editing or rereading.

4. Good sources of prompts:

Journalution: Journaling to Awaken Your Inner Voice, Heal Your Life and Manifest Your Dreams by Sandy Grason 

The Pocket Muse: Ideas & Inspirations for Writing by Monica Wood

5. Select a spot or area for your writing time. Make it comfortable. Make sure you have good light. Decorate the area with "comfort" items: flowers, pretty knickknacks, photos, etc. Play music softly if it doesn't disturb you. Light a scented a candle; burn incense. Once you establish a ritual, do it the same way each day.

Once you establish this pattern for writing in your journal, try a similar pattern for sitting at the computer if that's your chosen method for writing. It will be easier to establish a set writing time and pattern for your creative work once you make journaling a habit. You'll also find that journaling unleashes a flow of material and sparks your imagination in ways you never thought possible.

Portions of this article are reprinted from 4Ps to Publishing Success: Get Your Manuscript Off Your Desk & Into Print by Shelley Lieber.  If you liked today's article, you'll LOVE the book! A complete step-by-step guide to getting published. Find out if you need 4Ps to Publishing Success>>> 

 Photo ©Gemignani. See more photos by Joe Gemignani.

Monday, January 19, 2009

How to respond to a journalist's request for sources

It’s very exciting and a good opportunity to reply to a journalist’s query or request for expert sources. However, there are conventional rules of procedure to follow, or you risk being labeled a pest rather than a valuable resource! Here’s how to submit your expertise, book or product to a media request. (These rules apply to “blind” pitching, too.)

  1. Only respond or pitch if you are an appropriate match for the topic. Don’t try to stretch the truth or present yourself to be something you’re not or promise what you can’t deliver.

  2. Give the request serious thought before dashing out your information. Read the request carefully. What is the angle of the story? Who is the audience? Then present your material in a manner that is consistent with the needs of the story and the audience.

  3. Open with an introduction about why you are writing (I’m writing in response to… or to suggest…). Indicate why you are an expert, but keep to a sentence. “As a licensed physical therapist with Such and Such Medical Group, ….”

  4. Present your information and specify how it is relevant to the subject of the article or show. Make your presentation to the journalist very clear; don’t assume that he or she will connect the dots between what you are sending and what they need. If this is a blind pitch, then it’s even more important to establish how your information can benefit or be of interest to the audience.

  5. Put your short bio at the end, with your contact information. If you have a book, include “[your name], author of…” Always end with “I’d be happy to provide additional for this or any other article (show, etc.) that you are preparing about (the subject). Please let me know how else I can help you.”

  6. Keep it short. This is not the time to submit your media kit, photo or any self-serving attachments. The purpose of your response is to feed enough information to the journalist to prompt a call or email for more information. If you are contacted, remember that the goal is to serve the press, not to get free publicity. If you help the journalist, your name or product may be cited in the newspaper, magazine or media broadcast. Although that’s the ultimate payoff for you, your purpose in replying to requests or sending pitches is to help the journalist do his or her job, which is serving the needs of the audience.

  7. Be mindful of deadlines.

Be realistic. You may think you’re the perfect source or match for the journalist’s needs, but you won’t get a call every time you submit. However, if you establish a pattern of consistent quality and reliability (they call you for a quote when their deadline is in 15 minutes), then you’ll develop a valuable relationship that will pay off for you many times over.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Creativity Boosters

We've all felt like we've been up against a brick wall at one time or another with our writing. Here are some creativity-boosting tips for busting through writer's block.

1. Free write. Set a timer for ten minutes and just write. If you're writing in a journal, you may want to have a prompt or ask yourself a question. Write the prompt or question at the top of the page and go. If you're working on your book or an assignment, review your notes or what you last wrote and then write for ten minutes. Start each writing session this way. Getting started is the hardest part of the writing process for most people. Allowing yourself the freedom of free writing, without censure, lets you begin.

2. Have several projects. In the event that your novel's characters are being totally uncooperative, switch to another writing project. This is a good time to think about headlines for a press release or to work on your query letter or proposal. Or perhaps you have an article you're working on or an idea for an article you want to pitch to an editor. A caveat: Stick to writing projects and stay off the Internet. If you start to answer email, you'll be pulled away from writing. Even worse is to work on "research" via the Internet. An hour will pass and you'll have not written a word!

3. Read your journal or take out the notebook you keep with the notes you've jotted down for stories. If you don't keep a notebook, begin immediately! Write down any thoughts about characters, scraps of overheard conversation, or events that stimulate an article idea. Keep this notebook with you at all times. And, always, always have a pen. Part of developing the creative habit is to be prepared. How many good ideas have you lost because you didn't write them down?

4. Take a break. If the words are truly stuck, try something else entirely. Take a walk, sew, paint, cook, read or do some activity you enjoy. Be sure to return to the page, though, within a short period of time.

Portions of this article are reprinted from 4Ps to Publishing Success: Get Your Manuscript Off Your Desk & Into Print by Shelley Lieber. If you liked the article, you'll LOVE the book! A complete step-by-step guide to getting published. Find out if you need 4Ps to Publishing Success>>>

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

VIP Author Talks 2009 Kickoffs with Marlene Chism: “Success is a Given: Reading the Signs While Re-Inventing Your Life”

Change is probably going to be the key word of the year 2009--and possibly the next four years. Whether you are facing change by choice or by chance, you can use new circumstances as a catalyst for growth--or better, a book.


VIP Author Talks kicks off the 2009 tele-series on Wednesday, January 21 at 8:00pm ET with someone who knows how to make change work for you in your life: Marlene Chism, author of Success is a Given: Reading the Signs While Re-Inventing Your Life (

Having successfully transitioned from factory worker to speaker, coach and author. Marlene will share the insights, tips and resources she used to fashion her circumstances into a successful career. Based on what you hear in this presentation, you can learn how to:

  • Choose the topic and title for your book

  • Organize your material

  • Use your book as a tool to build and expand your business 

  • Use writing, speaking and coaching to build an audience (readers)

Bonus Content!

Marlene will also

  • Reveal what she would do differently so you can learn from her hindsight (mistakes)

  • Answer questions from the audience

This is one conversation you don't want to miss. Mark your calendar now for this free event*. Here's how to get on the call:

What: VIP Author Talks with Guest Marlene Chism

When: Wednesday, January 21, 2009, 8:00pm to 9:00pm Eastern (7:00pm Central, 6:00pm Mountain, 5:00pm Pacific)

Call-In Details: To get on the call, please dial 1 (218) 339-4600, and enter Access Code 992777# when prompted.

*The presentation will last one hour and is free to attend, but long distances may apply. Please note that anyone may call in and listen, but the audio recording will only be available to VIP Author Inner Circle members. If you are not yet a member and would like a recording of this call, find out more about all the benefits of VIP Author Inner Circle membership here>>>

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Are you SMART?

The only way to make continual progress with your writing is to set goals. There's no job description for writer and no standard measurement for advancement. So, it's up to you to establish a framework that defines your goals and strategies for success.

It's a good idea to set a mixture of short- and long-term goals. Ask yourself where you want to be in the next three months, six months, one year, two years, five years and ten years. Dream big dreams and don't let "reason" restrict your vision for yourself.

Use the well-known acronym, SMART, to help you create your goals. SMART stands for:

Specific: Be precise. Instead of "I will write more often," say, "I will write every morning."?

Measurable: Write quantitative, rather than qualitative, goals. Make sure you can measure progress, or how will you know when you've attained your goal??Action-Oriented: Choose goals you can control. Rather than "I will be published in a national magazine by June of this year," write "I will send a query letter each week to possible markets until I am published in a national magazine."?

Risk/Realistic: Set goals that will make you stretch your capabilities, but don't set yourself up for failure. If you have a full-time job or small children at home, writing a novel in one month is an unlikely feat.?

Timed: Deadlines help you pace yourself to complete your goals within a specific period of time. The publishing world rises and falls on making deadlines, so push yourself to hold firm to your commitment. ? ?

Other Tips

  1. Put your goals in writing.

  2. Post your goals where you can see them or make it a point to read them at least three times a day: when you awake in the morning, mid-day and before you go to sleep.

  3. Share your goals with a supportive friend or relative. Your writers' group may be your support group. The act of sharing your intentions releases them to the Universe and also will help keep you accountable--you will want to perform to expectations.

  4. Celebrate your successes! When you can cross off a goal or make a check mark on your list, buy yourself a new journal, pen or book. See a movie or have lunch with a friend. Schedule a manicure or massage.

  5. Get back to work after your celebration. Keep going.

  6. Be flexible and adjust your goals when necessary. New opportunities always arise and you may find yourself attracted to magazine writing when you thought you wanted to write screenplays. Be open to possibilities that are as yet unseen.

  7. Never beat yourself up or consider yourself a failure for not completing a goal in a specified time. Review your setbacks and revise your strategy. Never, never, never give up!

Portions of this article are reprinted from 4Ps to Publishing Success: Get Your Manuscript Off Your Desk & Into Print by Shelley Lieber.  Find out if you need 4Ps to Publishing Success>>>

Thursday, January 01, 2009

The Ultimate Resolution that Changes Everything

Are you tired of making lists: things to do, goals to make, promises to keep...? I am. It seems it never ends and there's always another list to make. So, I decided to take a good, honest look at why I haven't lost the weight, made the money or gone on the trip.

This is what I discovered. I've accomplished far more than I had thought, but there are still important milestones I've yet to reach. So, what is the difference between what I have accomplished and what I have not?

At first I thought is was a matter of belief. But I truly do know I can lose five pounds, make more money and go on a vacation, because I've done that all before. So I looked again at my list of what I've done and what I haven't done--and something jumped out at me with serious "aha" velocity.

The single distinguishing factor between my lists was that on one I had let go of my old ideas about how to do something and tried something new. Where I was stuck in the mud, I was holding on to how I've always done it. So, it was no surprise that what hadn't worked in the past still did not.

And so, I have made an Ultimate Resolution that I believe will change my life. I am open and receptive to all possibilities. That means never saying (or thinking) I can't do that, I'm too old for that, I don't have enough money for  that...and so on. It means never dismissing any idea just because it challenges my comfort zone.

In the past year, just changing my attitude about social networking (that it's only for kids) has revolutionized my business. And once I decided that I would just play around with it, suddenly it wasn't so hard to navigate the websites. The know-how seemed to come to me in all sorts of ways: tips online, people who knew how to do it, and my relaxed attitude about it all seemed to make the instructions easier to follow.

Several business strategies I wanted to employ but hadn't because of the costs become possible when I decided that I'd find a way to do it without spending the money. Suddenly people who could provide what I needed showed up and wanted to partner with me for an exchange of services. 

Do you see how simply opening your mind to all possibilities can change your whole world? No big visible big effort needed, just an ongoing gentle reminder to yourself not to reject anything or anyone without first looking with open eyes and open mind.

How many opportunities have you dismissed just because it didn't fit your current view of reality? The only reality is that things change, so why not go with the flow instead of resisting?

Say it out loud. "I am open and receptive to all possibilities." 

Doesn't that feel good? Much better than "I can't," which makes you feel yucky. And it applies to everything on your to-do list and goals sheet. 

Join me this year in a creative thinking exercise. What's really holding you back from achieving what you want? The circumstance, or how you think about the circumstance? Let's all employ the Ultimate Resolution--I am open and receptive to all possibilities--and meet back in a year to tell our stories.

Are you in? Write your comments below. Do it now!