Best of Blog: Round Up!

IMG_5222.JPGI spent 5+ years on this blog and I haven’t posted in awhile, but I wanted to share a great round up of some of my top posts throughout the years.

I think I’ve made this place a good launch pad for authors’ careers answering questions about all aspects of the writing and publishing arenas.

Let me know which articles were most helpful to you!

THE CRAFT

Top Tips for Writing / Editing:

On characters 30 questions to ask your main character.

On comparison to other writers 6 Tips on why writers shouldn’t (but might) compare themselves to others, and why they shouldn’t (what they should do).

On category and genre. Infographic: Do You Know The Difference Between Literary, Upmarket and Commercial Fiction? Helping writers understand the difference between these three categories so that they can market and sell (or query) their book better.

On writing page one: Tips To Hook A Reader on Page One Tips on what hooks a reader (so they keep reading) like a secret, verses mistakes that encourage them to put the book down.

On where your book begins Five reasons why you might be starting your novel in the wrong place.

On how to redirect a wandering book: 4 ways to edit your book back on track When you feel like you’re losing your novel, do these four things.

On writing synopsis Ways to write a synopsis.

Top Tips for Dealing with Writer Anxiety:

On what writers should stop worrying about Lessons writers should take to heart on what they can and cannot control.

On what writers should stop wasting their time on What writers need to avoid so their time is more productive.

THE BUSINESS

Top Tips for Social Media / Marketing:

On Instagram Tips on how to use Instagram and how it can establish brand/marketing.

On writing for the market and you Tips on writing for the marketing but not trying to write “trends.”

On agents googling authors Insight on the truth about agents googling writers after they like a query, as well as what social media is best for each kind of writer (including times to post).

On building platform 7 ways to build an online community which is essential to success.

On how social media hurts writers 6 ways social media doesn’t help you get published–i.e. what writers shouldn’t do or share online.

Top Tips for Querying / Pitching:

On querying 8 query tips that nobody tells writers (but you do!)

On personalizing your QL 10 ways/examples on how authors can introduce their book in their Query Letter that shows they’ve done research and/or have similar taste.

On QL content–focusing on plot vs. theme 3 big reasons why agents are interested in plot-driven Query Letter instead of theme-elaborate Query Letter.

On passing on QLs 5 quick reasons why an agent say “no thanks.”

On pitch potential The advantages and disadvantages of various ways authors pitch their work to agents (in person, conference, etc.).

On reading slush (your strategies) How I read slush!

Top Tips for Publishing:

On publishing industry “rules.” 4 rules you can break and 6 you can’t.

On publishing your debut novel. 5 tips on how to get your book to the printer.

Top Tips for Agent Relationships (and getting one):

On lessons you’ve learned as an agent. Your 15 points on what you’ve learned about being an agent–I thought these were really sincere and smart and something to exemplify.

On what agents like to know about potential authors. What you like to know about potential authors.

On how to be a good client. 7 tips on what will make you a great client to work with (for your agent).

On what’s wrong with your manuscript. Agent perspective on what flags a weak novel.

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5 Year Blog-versary Round Up!

9e4073d6863e21b9a5b923c3e62390afWow, 5 years since this blog began!

Thank you to the loyal readers and commenters for your engagement with my posts.

I decided to do a round up of some of my top posts over the years.

Craft:

30 Questions to Ask Your Main Character

When You Start Comparing Yourself To Other Writers

7 Things Writers Should Stop Wasting Their Time On

6 Tips To Hook A Reader on Page One

4 Ways To Edit Your Book Back on Track

Business:

Do You Know The Difference Between Literary, Upmarket and Commercial Fiction?

5 Secrets To Publishing Your Debut Novel

7 Ways To Make Yourself An Easy Author to Work With

Queries:

How To Write A Synopsis

8 Query Tips No One Tells Writers

How I Read Slush: 3 Lessons for Writers

Agent perspective: What’s wrong with your manuscript

Social Media:

7 Ways To Build a Platform Through Your Online Community

6 Ways Social Media Doesn’t Help You Get Published

Q: Do you have a favorite post? One that changed your opinion of the industry or changed your manuscript for the better?

4 Publishing Industry “Rules” You Can Break (and 6 You MUST follow!)

In publishing rules are just guidelines. We give you these guidelines to help you (believe it or not). We’re not trying to make your life harder; we are trying to show you how to succeed. These guidelines are what you should generally follow, but there are times you can break the rules.

A great skill for a writer to have is to know which you can bend and adapt, and which needs must be met. Read on…

4 RULES YOU CAN BREAK

  • Anything that is contradicted by multiple people at top levels – Have your go-to sources (Writer’s Digest, ME!, KidLit411, Debutante Ball, Writers in the Storm, Pub Crawl Blog, Query Shark, Jane Friedman, Girl Friday Productions, Susan Spann etc) and trust those who have years of industry experience at the top levels–we all agree on the important things. However, there will be things we don’t agree on. Therefore, trust your own gut sometimes or go with 1 trusted source (aka if you are querying a certain agent go with their guidelines, not some XYZ site that’s right 60% of the time). The most important thing is that you’re clear and concise–so if you bend the rules make sure you’re making yourself more clear, not adding complications.
  • “One Size Fits All” social media advice – If anyone is telling you there is one single way to build an author platform or brand they’re wrong. Recognizing and growing your brand will always be authentic to you. Just be yourself online, and be consistent about it. Emulate the frequency or interaction of others that you admire online, but develop your own voice. (More on platform/branding below.)
  • MFAs are the only route to getting published – You don’t need one. If you have one that’s great! But no one needs one to get published. Some people like the structure and built-in critique system. But you can recreate that outside of a school program by reading a lot and with writing groups and critique partners.
  • Marketing and publicity that began in the ice age of publishing – We are working in a very different world. The good thing about where we are right now is that writers can take chances on things! Cover reveals, price point drops, merchandise that is unique to your book. Be agile! Be forward thinking! You have full permission to question all marketing and publicity advice–but, here’s the kicker, you have to try everything and you have to throw yourself into it. You don’t get to complain that publishing is a different world and do nothing. You get to say “hey, things are different and discoverability has changed–so what am I doing as a writer to find my readership?” Finding your audience is up to YOU, not your publisher but they will help. Relying on what a publisher has done in the past shouldn’t be good enough for you, you can’t assume anything. You need a fresh plan for your book and a team that understands what your unique goals are. Everyone wants to sell books, your team will be on board for that, but it’s the ways we’re doing it that have changed.

If you understand why the rules are there, sometimes it’s okay to bend them to make a point. But you must know why the rule is there in the first place. It’s like satire. If you’re going to satirize something you have to know 1) what it is you’re playing with 2) what satire is.

6 RULES YOU MUST FOLLOW

  • Spelling and grammar – This should be easy enough in the manuscript, but sometimes writers like to get cute with puns in titles. (Please avoid! Puns in titles makes everyone question themselves and sales/booksellers think there is a typo.)
  • General length guidelines – Your adult manuscript should be between 70-90k words; if you can’t follow these rules then there’s something wrong with the structure of your book. Reasons it might be longer than 90: SF/F. However, even debut SF/F should try to be 90k because it gets really expensive to print (therefore the cost of the book goes up) and translate long works (you won’t get foreign rights deals) which makes it an uphill battle for debut authors starting a career.
  • Yes, you must get on social media – There are no excuses for a contemporary writer not to be on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Tumblr. Join the conversation! Learn more about the industry and your market. Unsure about social media? Read my post about building an online community and this one about recognizing your brand.
  • Communicate with your team – Rebelling against the establishment isn’t going to get your book published well. A great book might get published, but an author that’s willing to go above and beyond to promote themselves and work with their team will be a shining star. Rebelling against what your agent, editor or publicist needs from you will stop them from wanting to help you. Be a willing partner. Tell us what you’re up to and let’s work as a team.
  • If you’re writing non-fiction platform is a MUST MUST MUST – There is absolutely no way to get non-fiction published in a big way without a platform. Agents don’t look at non fiction unless it comes with a sizeable audience and a demonstrable expert. (Hint: Here’s what we want in a platform. And here are my important platform secrets that you should know from reading my blog.) Fiction authors: platform isn’t a requirement, but understanding that you’ll need to grow one eventually is helpful at early stages.
  • Submission guidelines – there is no way you’re going to get an agent’s attention by ignoring or modifying their guidelines to suit you better or try to stand out. The ones that stand out are the ones that follow the guidelines and do it well!

Yes, these rules are there for a reason…to help you get published!

Q: What other “rules” are you still confused about?

Things I Wish I Knew: Book Baristas Tips for Social Media

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 11.22.30 AMIf you don’t know about Book Baristas you’re probably not on Instagram. Book Baristas, at the time of writing, has approximately 80,000 Instagram followers and is certainly one of the most followed and respected “bookstagramers” around. If you’re on Instagram be sure to follow her! If you’re on the fence about the power of Instagram for books I think she’ll convince you it’s necessary.

She recently took a job working in publishing and has moved to NYC. She continues to blog and bookstagram while working for Penguin Books. Her name is Natasha Minoso and she’s our next “Things I Wish I Knew” series interviewee. I was thrilled to direct her some questions I know writers ask a lot: how do I grow my online platform and how do I work with book bloggers? Read on for the answers…

Book Baristas is a major book recommendation source on Instagram! Congratulations on building that platform. What do you wish you knew when you started it? 

Thank you! I wish I would have known that it would be both extremely time consuming and addictive. It’s a lot of work to keep up an Instagram, but its 100% worth it to be able to connect with readers/authors/publishers all over the world on one platform.

When you started Book Baristas did you strategically plan for it to grow on Instagram (as opposed to Twitter) or was that a natural place for the platform to develop? How fast did it grow?

I definitely didn’t plan for it to become as big as it is – creating an Instagram for the blog was just another outlet I could use to drive traffic to my blog’s website. It became apparent that Instagram was going to play a bigger role in this whole blogging world I was suddenly a part of. I’d say it started growing a lot faster after one of my first-ever Instagram giveaways (#BookBaristas5k) in February of 2015 that ended up being a crazy successful giveaway. Since then, it’s been kind of a whirlwind!

What advice can you give to writers about working with book bloggers or Instagram reviewers?

I’d say to remember that these bloggers/reviewers are going to be busy reading/reviewing a ton of other books and to be patient with the time that it can take for a review/Instagram feature to go up. Personally, I feel a sense of urgency when a writer will ask me when exactly I plan to put up a review. Blogging can feel insanely overwhelming so I’d just be more aware of that. Also, be prepared for whatever review/rating you get – sometimes a story doesn’t resonate with a reader and that’s okay.  

What advice do you have for writers or bloggers trying to grow their platforms? 

Be authentic – your personality and style will make your platforms sing. I can’t stress enough how important it is to be original with your words and ideas. Know your audience – every platform will attract different types of readers. Be honest with your content – if you are passionate about your work, it will show and people are more likely to appreciate your honesty! Lastly, remember that if reading and sharing your love of reading with others is something that you adore doing, then you are in the right place! Books are what bind us together in this community – don’t forget that we are all just readers finding our place in this online bookish world.

For more, follow Book Baristas on Twitter, Instagram and the blog, or follow Natasha’s personal account on Twitter.