Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Prepare for Publication

Bethany House author Dani Pettrey spoke recently at the Carroll County Chapter,  Maryland Writer’s Association on “I Finished my Manuscript. What Now?”

Pettrey is the author of the Alaskan Courage series, which so far includes: Submerged, Shattered, Stranded, Silenced, and Submerged. She described her novels as inspirational, romantic suspense. They are about strong, determined women willing to face danger to right what is wrong.

Her books have been awarded the Daphne du Maurier award, two HOLT Medallions, a Christy Award nomination, two National Readers’ Choice Awards, the Gail Wilson Award of Excellence, and Christian Retailing’s Best Award.
Dani Pettrey

She shared her experience along the road to publication, saying it was easier for her than for many writers. However, she wrote well, edited, studied her craft and was prepared when an opportunity was presented.

There is so much advice for writers out there, she said, recommending that you only take advice that resonates with you. There is so much variety and so many voices.

After fine-tuning their manuscript, most writers should start looking for an agent. You can research agents online, through writing organizations and by reading the front of books. Look for agents who are interested in your genre. Do not send a book of erotica or adult horror.to an agent who specializes in children’s books.

Also, writers should not send samples of their writing to editors and agents at the same time. Most agents have access to publishers they think may be interested in your book. However, if you already sent it to an editor and it was rejected, they cannot go back to that editor.

She agrees with the advice that attending writing conferences is helpful, not only for learning, but for meeting agents and editors. She always took to conferences a “one sheet” with a synopsis of her story and a short bio. Also, be prepared to give an elevator pitch if asked. This is a very condensed version of you book, like a movie description.

You submission package should Include a query letter, synopsis, two links and sample chapters. It helps to have your polished book (not rough copy) read by critique partners or by a freelance editor or paid critiquer.

Membership in writing organizations can be helpful. Most organizations have a newsletter or blog, provide content that can be helpful in your genre, include contact industry details and provide other benefits.

Writing can be a lonely business. Learn to enjoy the process. It helps to keep an encouragement file and reward yourself periodically.

While waiting for replies from agents or editors, begin to write your next book.

Check her out at www.danipettrey.com or on Facebook.com/danipettrey.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, My year of Magical Reading by Tina Sankovitch was one of those memorable reads, inspiring, motivating, heart breaking and life affirming. The unusual title first caught my attention, but once I started reading, I couldn't stop.

After the death of her older sister, she (I am not being disrespectful or too familiar, but it is easier to use a first name then the last or full name), she tries to run from her sadness, both literally and by filling her life so full, she could barely think. 

When the running didn’t help, she decided to read a book a day for a year, since a love of reading was something she shared with her sister.

For 365 days, she read, often until late at night. Often sitting in her comfortable old purple chair. All the books she read from 10/28/2008 to 10/28/2009 are listed at the end of the book. She also decided to review the books online and found  a new satisfaction in books by talking about them on her blog. She’s written 1001 book reviews.

Reading how much she enjoyed discussing these books with others, inspired me to include more book reviews or discussions in my blog. I don’t have a sister, but I am lucky to have a good friend who loves reading as much as I do and we recommend books to each other. Also, this sharing is a large part of the popularity of book clubs.

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair starts with a quote from Thomas A. Kempis, “Everywhere I have sought rest and not found it, except sitting in a corner by myself with a little book.”

Sankovitch feels she has to forgive herself for living while her sister was dead. I could understand with that since I lost my oldest brother years ago, but still weep for him, want to talk with him again.  Is guilt for not being there near the end of his life part of my unwillingness to let go of my grief? I was interested to see if the books she read helped her.

“Books were my time machine, my vehicles of recovery and reignited bliss from childhood and beyond,” she wrote. She felt connections to others reading the same book in different places and times.

Reading in my beige chair
During the year after my mother died, I read 146 books. I found them to be more therapeutic than watching mindless shows on television. Sometimes we just need to escape and there is always time for reading.

As Sankovitch wrote, “My year of magical reading was proving to be a fitting ending to my overwhelming sorrow and a solid beginning to the rest of my life.”

She found something meaningful in every book she read, both fiction and non-fiction. In mysteries, the sense of satisfaction is huge when a solution is found. We want our world to have order and mysteries often provide this. However, sometimes it is important to accept that there may be no real solution.

Some books we breeze through, but others have us searching for more. Sankovitch quoted author Elizabeth Maguire -  “Have you ever been heartbroken to finish a book? Has a writer kept whispering in your ear long after the last page is turned?” Yes. Some books we can't forget.

I enjoyed reading this book and loved the ending, “So many books waiting to be read, so much happiness to be found, so much wonder to be revealed.”

She had a new book published by Simon & Schuster in 2014, Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Celebrating the Joys of Letterwriting. I think I’ll read that one soon. I have so many books on my “to read" list, but I still would welcome hearing about books that you enjoyed.

Check out more about her at www.readallday.org/blog

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Pitching, Querying and Proposing

Award-winning editor Ally E. Machate recommended attending writing conferences and online events to make contacts in the publishing world, as well as for learning and meeting other writers, as she spoke on Pitching, Querying and Proposing.
Ally E. Machate

As well as attending conferences to learn and meet other writers, they offer a great way to make connections, she said, especially those with one-on- one meetings. This is a chance to sit down with an agent or editor. Later you can mention this meeting in a query letter, such as “I met you at…and you said…Here is...”

Ally worked with ex-Navy Commander Mark Divine, A SEAL for 20 years, to write The Way of the SEAL, a practical guide to defining and focusing on your goals and how to think like a SEAL.

Having worked in the publishing business for years, Ally was able to explain what your book goes through if it gets past the slush pile or gatekeepers, the decision makers.

For medium to large publishers, you need an agent, someone who knows the houses that publish your type of book. Search for agents who may be interested in your type of writing. Then find out what publishers they’ve sold to and what connections they have.

Lists of agents and editors are helpful, but they often use a generic email address. You may find a better source through networking with others. Find people who may be interested in your type of writing, with sources such as LinkedIn. Research magazines, literary journals and other online sites.

Try to learn a little about the agents or publications you are considering. Then you can write “I read your interview in …” or “I learned you were looking for a….”

Be sure to follow submission guidelines and make sure you get their name and gender correct. Propose one project at a time, although can mention if you have others.

She recommended giving the agent ammunition with a good synopsis. They can use it to sell your book and if they are successful, the publishing house can use it in audio pitches for their salespeople.

Do not send out queries if you are not quite finished your book. If they are interested and ask you to send a copy right away and you still need to finish writing and editing the story, you may lose this opportunity.
Ally and writer Mike Crowl

Ally explained that platform is industry language for anything that can be used to sell your book. This may include awards, publishing credits, a blog or social media column, credentials, ties to large organizations, or connections.  Planks are what you stand on to stand above the crowd.

Agents and editors will search your name, so it helps if you have a footprint online: a website, blog, Facebook or Twitter account. 

For fiction, authors should send a query letter and a synopsis. Fiction and memoir are treated the same. For non-fiction, a detailed book proposal is necessary. A proposal may be more than 20 pages of detail.

Start your query letter with some kind of hook, a personal connection or catchy plot line, she said. Next you want a description of the project. Think of this like writing marketing strategy or cover copy. Then tell who are you and why you are you proposing this book. Give them your credentials. By the end of your query, you want them to ask to see your complete work.

A synopsis is usually three to five pages double-spaced, a complete recap of your entire story – start to finish. Focus on main stuff. Give them a flavor of the book.

Novels are generally 60,000  to 80,000 words.  Non-fiction usually runs 50,000 to 70,000 words.

Ally is a bestselling book collaborator and expert publishing consultant. Since 1999, she has assisted, guided, and supported would-be authors on their publishing journey and takes pride in serving as their books' best ally. You can learn more about Ally at www.thewritersally.com and www.allymachate.com.


If you don’t get that first book published it doesn’t mean you are not good, it just means you might not be good enough right now. Keep writing. Also, it is important to get to know your craft. This is a business.

CCMWA President Kerry Peresta
and Ally Machate
Take your business seriously.

This event was sponsored by the Carroll County Chapter of the Maryland Writers Association. For more information, check out www.marylandwriters.org or www.carrollcountymwa.org.