Hi everyone, it’s been a great 6 years of blogging, but it’s time to end the party.
My advice to all writers regarding social media and blogging is that if you can’t post consistently with new content then it’s not worth it–and I’m taking my advice! I will leave it up so that you can still read the articles for information.
Thank you to my 3,000 blog followers–and 80,000 visitors a year!– for engaging with me and asking great questions.
Here are some of my top posts from over the years:
On comparison to other writers
On where your book begins
On category and genre
On personalizing your query to agents
On your first page
Did you have any favorite posts over the years? Let me know in the comments.
Moving forward, I’m taking the energy I was using on blogging and spending it on my other social platforms. Come follow me over there!
Non fiction is an incredibly busy category. With celebrity memoirs and internet-based projects (HONY etc.) everywhere (and rightfully so! As you’ll see below) it’s a competitive space for debut non fiction authors. So if you have a non fiction idea how are you going to get to the marketplace? How do you find an agent and editor that will see the potential?
Firstly, you need a completely original idea or a very new/controversial take on an existing one. Yes, nearly every topic has been written about but there are many more spins and angles to be worked. So ask yourself: Why are you the right person to write this? Why does the market need it? There is no substitute for the idea. You can work on 2 and 3, but this has to be there from day 1. If you’re working on an idea that’s already out there in book format, how is yours different? No agent or editor is going to sign something up that’s already out there unless it’s being done differently or better.
How have you tested your idea? Do you have a podcast where people call in with stories? Do you have a Twitter account with lots of RTs? Do you have regular speaking gigs where people hear you talk? Are you on TV/have a column/hold a prominent job? How does a publisher know that people are engaged with what you have to say? If they’re going to financially invest in a project before it’s written (remember non fiction is sold on proposal) then you need to show them why they should. You’re writing a business plan for your project. Engagement is the proof that this idea can work as a book. Give the publisher faith that you can bring this to a wide audience.
Engagement and platform are the same category, but different. You can have a platform without engagement (i.e. blog with no hits) but you can’t have engagement without a solid platform. Pick the platform that you find easiest to consistently communicate on and make it easy for people to find you. Your platform is essentially your numbers of followers and the virtual and physical reach you have. How many people listen to your podcast? How many followers do you have? They need to be engaged, yes! But, the smaller your platform the higher the engagement has to be. The bigger your platform gets high engagement is expected and that’s when it’s time to pitch a book.
Then you put it all together into a proposal, write a query, and submit.
The long weekend is over and it’s full steam ahead to Frankfurt Book Fair, #NaNoWriMo, the International Festival of Authors and the rest of the delights of fall publishing.
This week, I’m hosting a live #askagent session on the PSLA Facebook page.
Ask your questions in advance here.
Thursday at 4pm EST you can log in here. Join me!
One of my biggest pet peeves as an agent reading slush is unrealistic dialogue. This is a huge indicator of skill for better or for worse. For me this is a bigger red flag than any grammatical error and I cringe when dialogue isn’t edited as carefully as the rest of the manuscript (in terms of pace, being concise etc). I will VERY quickly pass on a manuscript if everything else is going well–except dialogue. It’s a more important piece of the puzzle than most writers realize. It’s our link to your characters’ tone, emotion, voice and so many other things. If you want a reader to connect with your characters (which you all do!) dialogue is a huge part of that equation.
So, how can you write better dialogue?
Write the character’s voice, not yours — Debut writers have a tendency to write themselves into their book when it’s not necessary and therefore, they baby the characters a bit instead of treating them separately. There is a divide between you and your characters even if you can’t see the difference when the words flow through your keyboard onto the page.
Don’t strong arm the characters around — It is very obvious when a writer is being a puppet master instead of letting the characters’ dialogue flow naturally. Make sure you don’t try to manipulate your characters because what ends up happening is that the reader can see through it and THEY feel manipulated. You have to trust your reader so you have to create worlds where dialogue flows naturally and makes sense for the plot.
Avoid perfect phrasing and sentences — None of us speak perfectly in real life and your characters shouldn’t either. Have them cut each other off. Let them speak over each other. Allow them to make grammatical errors.
Use dialogue to advance your plot — Don’t let your characters stand around recounting a scene that already happened. We were all there! That’s the quickest way to lose us and waste word count. Instead, keep moving forward. Never let dialogue move backwards. (Use flashbacks to look back.)
Q: What tools do you use to edit and improve your dialogue?