February 20, 2019– So, you’ve self-published a book, and now you want to pitch your book to a literary agent. This is a tougher road to submission versus the traditional route because publishing is all about sales figures. It can be confusing and frustrating so here’s how to do it right and get your query read!
Sales. Yep, the almighty dollar. Publishing is a business and should be treated as such. How many copies has your book sold? This does NOT include FREE downloads. Please do not query an agent unless you’ve sold 2000-3000 print books or 10,000-20,000 ebooks. Agents look for books that encompass money and success, you must show that your work is above the millions of other books that are self-published each year and one way to do this is to put your money where your mouth is. Prove that your book is saleable with the cash it’s already raked in.
Media attention. Amazon reviews don’t count so I’ll stop you right there. Query an agent only when your book has received reviews from mainstream media such as newspapers, magazines, and tv shows. The bigger, the better!
Bring on the accolades. Has a high profile author or celebrity said something nice about your book? Has an expert in the field you’ve written about endorsed your work? If not, don’t approach an agent until you’ve got some attention from notable names! A blurb or endorsement from a well-known person is an invaluable marketing tool that will better your chances of an agent wanting to represent you.
Eventually, we will delve into the how-to of getting a literary agent to represent your work, but that’s for another blog post down the road. Start with this and when you fulfill the above requirements, we’ll talk. Happy writing! X LLB
February 18, 2019– Today we’re talking about book reviews; wait a second, there is a format for writing a book review? Let’s get real, there are formats for every piece of writing that you could ever think of!
Book reviews offer you a chance to share your perception of a book’s good and bad parts and to share info with other readers that they may find useful. Of course, book reviews also allow others to decide whether they should read the book themselves.
Here are the do’s and don’ts of writing a book review:
Do provide a general overview of the book. Include the author, title, publication info such as the publisher and year of publication, and genre. In a few sentences us a taste of the book and your overall opinion of it.
Do say WHY you liked or disliked the book. Be specific! What did you love about it? What did you hate about it? What could have made it better?
Do take a stand. The whole point of a book review is to make a recommendation to your reader. Remember that it is possible to like and dislike parts of the same book! Don’t be afraid to share your opinion!
Don’t give too much away. If you’re reviewing fiction don’t give away key points of plot or the ending or twists that could ruin it for other readers.
Don’t make your review too long. A paragraph or two will do. Pick the thing that interests you most and the thing that you think will most interest your readers.
Don’t be a jerk. If you didn’t enjoy the book, that’s fine, but don’t be insulting. Let your reader know why you were disappointed in the book while still being calm and unemotional.
So there you have it! I look forward to reading your reviews online for some books I’m thinking of reading!
February 15, 2019– I do a lot of talks and host a lot of classes on writing and publishing, and at least once per class this question comes up: What does it take to become a successful author/entrepreneur? Is there a secret formula? Is there a quick fix, magic wand or potion that can help? If you read my blog or have met me in person, you’ll know exactly what I think of that. The short answer is NO to all of the above. What I can tell you is that there are strategies and actions that will lead you to success and that they’re way better than any magic wand.
Believe that you can do it. I know, I know, I’m usually a hard ass that says stop wishing and start working, but I want to remind you that if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. See? There’s the cynic you’ve all come to know and love. You’ve got to have the mental posture for success. Believing in yourself requires daily dedication, encouragement from within and positive self-talk. What’s that famous saying? Whether you think you can or think you cannot, you’re right!
Have the right people around. I’m talking about everyone from the people you employ to the people you hang around with on a frequent basis; if they’re not forcing you to up your game and become a better author and entrepreneur, then you’ve got the wrong group. If you want to be successful, you have to hang around successful people. Have a mentor, have the right heroes, and have people that you look up to.
Expose yourself to what is new. Did you learn anything today? Your competition did. You must stay on the cusp of what is happening in your industry to stay informed and relevant. The more you learn, the more you earn. Are you reading publications that will make you a better writer? Do you subscribe to content that will make you see things from an entrepreneur’s perspective? Are you learning the business and are you striving to be better than you were yesterday? Can you name the current trends in your industry? If you said no to any of the above questions, you’ve got a lot of work to do.
Take responsibility. Can you guess who is directly, unequivocally, 100% responsible for your success? That’s right, YOU — no one else. When the bus goes sideways, and you’re the driver, you have no one else to blame. Blaming others for your actions, decisions, and ramifications of those decisions is a gigantic waste of your time. And let me tell you something else, if you blame others, you won’t be in business very long. Successful people take responsibility for every choice they make and for everything that happens to them whether good or bad. Your name is on the door so act like it.
Take action. Come on; you had to have known that this was coming if you’re a regular reader of this blog. Action is the only way to get what you want. You can dream about things until you finally wake up and see the world for what it is; the only people who reap rewards are the people who are willing to work for them. Nothing happens until you do something. Don’t be all talk and no action. I can’t stand people like that. You are what you DO, NOT what you say you’ll do.
Here’s to your success! May you get what you deserve. X LLB
February 13, 2019– First, let me say a very happybirthday to my momma. I love you and thanks for supporting me in everything. You are the best, and I’m so glad you’re my mom.
You read the title of this post correctly in that your next novel or storybook could very well be sitting on your bookshelf right now! I’m not talking about plagiarizing or copying other artists work, I’m talking about inspiration. As authors, we own a ton of different books that range from fiction to non-fiction, to romance, thrillers, biographies, magazines, historical fiction, and everything in between because we read as much as we write.
A few months back when I decided it was time to pitch a children’s story to some agents in New York, I knew I needed some fresh material. I also knew that I made a promise to myself that in 2019 I would use what I have. Now, normally, I would have gone to the bookstore and bought a bunch of books for inspiration, but this time, I went to my well-stocked library and pulled a book off the shelf. I was determined to take an idea and make it into a story, and that’s precisely what I did. I can’t give you any more details on this until it’s the right time, but I’ll update this post with news from what transpired with the agents:)
So, how can you use what you have on your shelf to write a great story that’s your own? Here’s how:
Start with non-fiction. You’ve heard the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction and if you’ve ever thumbed through a newspaper you’ll know that it’s true! Use headlines from your daily delivery that catch your attention. Here are few that I’ve put in my back pocket for later use: Woman searched for 24 years for the daughter she was forced to give up, Kitty hitches 40 km ride to Grimsby in a garbage truck, and Spiders Alive-The eight-legged exhibition. Also, think about using some headlines from around the world, a quick Google search will help you find inspiration.
Page 47, paragraph 2, sentence 3– This is a fun way to start a story! Quick, go to your bookshelf and choose a book. Turn to page 47, paragraph 2, sentence 3. Here’s what I found from the book that I chose by following the above directions: Toe wrestling began in the town of Wetton in 1970. How awesome is that for a starter? You can do this with any book and with any numbers you choose.
Turn to professional publications– I subscribe to a bunch of publications that are relevant to writing and publishing and one of my favourites is Writer’s Digest. It’s always packed full of information and good advice and sometimes even an idea or two. Pick up your trusted magazines either digitally or the ones that are covering the sofa and flip through them for ideas. Here’s one that I picked up from the most recent issue of Writer’s Digest: Investigative reporting often involves tracking down reluctant sources… Are you thinking what I’m thinking? What about a story about a reporter who goes to get answers from a source and they end up running for their life? What if they’ve uncovered a secret that’s too big to keep hidden? What if the reporter finds out that the reluctant source is their spouse? And the list of ideas go on and on.
There you have it; inspiration for your next book is almost certainly lurking in the corners of your bookshelf! It’s up to you to find it:) Happy Writing! X LLB
February 6, 2019– I’m sure that most of us have heard about the power of positive thinking and how optimism can add years to our lives. I do not disagree with all of that good stuff, but I am saying that there are both sides to a coin; sometimes thinking about what could be wrong, is the right thing to do. Let’s back up for a second.
The Power of Positive Thinking was written by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and is an international best selling book with over five million copies in print; pretty impressive! Here’s what an excerpt online says about the book: The Power Of Positive Thinking will show you that the roots of success lie in the mind and teach you how to believe in yourself, break the habit of worrying, and take control of your life by taking control of your thoughts and changing your attitude. Great! Is that all I have to do is change my thoughts? Not so fast. Here’s where the skeptic in me shines through.
It’s one thing to think good thoughts, but it’s quite another to take action toward your goals. You can sit on your sofa all day and think about collecting cheques in the mail, but if you don’t get off your butt and earn some money, you’ll lose your house eventually. It’s not to say that I’m a pessimist, I’m really not. I believe that all things start in the mind and that if you control your thoughts and your attitude, and put forth consistent action toward your goals, that you can achieve anything. But, it’s the combination of these things that is the ticket. You can have a terrible attitude and take tons of action toward your goal, and I’d be willing to bet that you won’t achieve it. Sometimes it’s a good thing to think negatively…let me explain.
Here’s how the power of thinking negatively can actually help us in the long run:
It causes us to THINK before we act. Thinking of the worst case scenario allows us to stop and think before we make rash decisions. It allows us to think CLEARLY not QUICKLY. Thinking negatively can help us consider if the next move we make will create an unexpected chain reaction in the future. Quitting your full-time job to start a writing career is a big risk. We should think of this situation from a slightly negative point of view in order to have the best possible plan going forward. Perhaps once we see our budget and expenses are in order, we could take the leap, for example.
We won’t take success for granted. To say, “Don’t worry! Everything will be okay!” to someone who is unable to pay the bills is like poking holes in a sinking ship. If you practice this type of thinking while ignoring reality, you are being reckless and dangerous. We need to eliminate false illusions that create or compound our problems instead of pretending they don’t exist. One of my biggest fears? Being a one hit wonder. Nothing scares me more than being a has-been. That’s why when I look at things, I look at them from a slightly skewed, negative perspective that reminds me to work harder even on the days when I don’t feel like it.
It let’s us know where we are vulnerable and how to fix those vulnerabilities. Thinking negatively can let us examine where our weaknesses lie. Let’s say that you’re going to pitch your book to some agents for the first time ever, what could your vulnerabilities be? This goes for anything with your writing whether it’s submitting a query, doing a public speaking engagement, or signing a book deal; if we don’t know what our weaknesses are, how can we possibly fix them?
Yes, think positively and have a good attitude! But every now and then, examine the situation from the other side of the dock. Happy Writing! X LLB
February 4, 2019– A lot of aspiring authors get confused when asked by publishers who their novel is for. It can be tricky to differentiate between middle-grade novels and novels for young adults, so I thought that we would explore that topic today and clear things up.
For ages 8-12
Length is 30,000 to 50,000 words
No profanity, graphic violence, or sexuality. Romance in middle-grade novels is limited to first kiss or crush.
Age of protagonist is 10-13 (ten for the younger MG and 13 for the older readers)
Focus on friends, family, and the immediate world of the main character and their relationship to it. The characters react to what happens to them with zero to minimal self-reflection.
Voice is usually third person.
For ages 13-18
Length is 50,000 to 70,000 words
Profanity, graphic violence, romance, and sexuality (except for eroticism) are all allowed thought NOT required/necessary.
Age of protagonist is 14-18 BUT NOT yet in college/university. Young adult protagonists can be 14-15 years old for the younger reader, with safer content aimed at the middle school crowd. For older and edgier young adult protagonists, the can be up to 18.
Focus on how they fit into the world and what their place is beyond their friends and family. They spend more time discovering who they are and reflecting on the choices they make. They are analytical with the meaning of things.
Voice is usually first person.
This is a quick and easy way to know which group your novel fits into. Happy writing! X LLB
February 1, 2019– Things come in waves around here and I think that it’s kind of funny; sometimes all I’ll receive is middle-grade manuscripts, then the next time I’ll receive sci-fi submissions, and lately everyone seems to be sending me their ideas for children’s books. Since I’ve had such an influx of kid’s book submissions, let’s talk about how to better your chances of getting a picture book deal with my house.
There have been a ton of incorrectly submitted kid’s book queries and manuscripts in their entirety sent to me as of late (we’ll talk about queries in another post) so I thought that I’d be very specific on what to submit.
Time– Know that if you do get a deal signed with me, your book (any book) will take 2-5 years to hit the shelf. If this is too much time for you to wait then you have bigger problems and this industry will eat you alive. Patience is of the essence and great things take time. We are not in the business of rushing a book, throwing it on the shelf, and hoping for the best. Every single thing is calculated beforehand in terms of a marketing plan, securing the best illustrator for the project, editing the manuscript, obtaining dates for book signings, and cover design. If you’re not in this for the long haul and don’t have a ton of patience, you’re going to be in trouble.
Word Count– Is your picture book between 250-800 words? My personal preference for this type of book is 600-800 words. I prefer this length because it gives us time to get the story across and create a compelling character without leaving any loose ends.
Character– Is your story character driven? Is your character relatable? Does the character participate in a universal childhood experience? If your story is none of these or only one of these, it’s back to the drawing board for you. Don’t bother submitting because you aren’t ready and you don’t understand your market.
POV- Which point of view is your story told from? There’s only one that matters and it’s the child’s point of view. Don’t make mom or dad the main character. Kids see the world from their perspective and not ours. This means that if they’re in a grocery store for example, they probably won’t be able to reach a box of cereal from the top shelf. Or maybe it’s a mass of people in the store and the child comes to eye level with everyone’s butts. You get the point (of view).
Fresh-Is your story something new, fresh, and from a different angle? Let’s use the universal childhood experience again; picky eater books all read the same except for the very good ones. Dragons Love Tacos is a perfect example of a good one because it deals with foods that kids hate, but it puts a fresh and fun spin on it. Sure, making tacos for dragons may not be a universal childhood experience, but not liking certain foods is! Another awesome example of a fresh, different angle kid’s book is The Day the Crayons Quit. Talk about genius!
Kids-And perhaps the most important question of all is, will your book appeal to kids? They are the target audience and if they don’t like it, you can believe that their parents won’t buy it for them. If you’re not writing with kids in mind, then you shouldn’t be writing for kids in the first place.
There you have it! Before sending in your work, know the rules above and I promise that you’ll better your chances of working with us. X LLB
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