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 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
January 30, 2019– This is a very cool and useful infographic of sixteen government types and the way that they work. This is great for research purposes if you’re going to build/destroy a society in your writing. Brought to you by our friends at wordpandit.com:)
January 25, 2019– I know a thing or two about resistance, as I’m sure you do; we are human after all, and finishing anything is hard. Sure, it may be easy to finish an entire tub of Ben and Jerry’s Half Baked Ice Cream in one sitting, but it’s a lot harder to finish things that matter in our lives. Do you know how many people have started manuscripts that they’ve never finished? Or how many of us have unfinished paintings or works of art that have sat in drawers and on shelves for decades? The answer to both questions is too many. To make my point, let me tell you a story.
My sister and I decided that we were going to run a race in our city called Around the Bay. It wasn’t five or ten kilometers, it was thirty and I had no idea how the hell I was going to do it. I started training for about five months beforehand, and five days a week I would run along the mountain brow in the wee hours of the morning. I increased my kilometers over time and eventually was able to run twenty-five kilometers without a problem. Race day came and the first twenty kilometers were a breeze. I was happy, and felt great, and was sure that I could finish the race. Well, guess what happened? During the last ten kilometers, I fell apart. I was so close to the end, but I was ready to quit. I seriously thought about calling a cab or throwing myself into traffic just so I could lie down. Why? Because resistance is most powerful at the finish line. We ended up crossing the finish line arm in arm and it was an experience that I will never forget. Am I glad I did it? Yes. Am I glad it’s over? Also, yes.
Here’s why resistance is most powerful at the finish line of your writing:
Because we can’t see the ending. Could we see the end of the race/the ribbon? Not a chance. We were still too far away, but let me tell you when we did finally see the end, we sped up and finished. We got it done. Same goes for your writing! Know that there’s an ending and as much as you want to give up and throw in the literary towel, don’t. Keep going. Just put one word behind the next, and you’ll get there. It will take time, but you’ll get there. You may not be able to see the ending, but it’s there. If we don’t finish something, how can we move on to the next thing?
Because we’ve worked so hard for so long. We’ve been working on the same manuscript for days, months, and even years. We have worked so hard, and we are past the point of caring. If this is you, know that you’re almost there. Stay disciplined, sit in your seat, and type. It’s one of the most challenging things to do, but unless we keep pushing, we will never finish. Know that just like everything, there is always a beginning and an end. All we have to do is persist.
Because we’re tired and we don’t think that we can keep going. During that race, my mind played tricks on me. It said that I couldn’t possibly take another step and that it would be so much easier just to stop and give up. I was not only physically tired but mentally tired too. I didn’t want to do it anymore. What the hell was the point of starting if I wasn’t going to finish? Why would anyone in their right mind run twenty-kilometers of a thirty-kilometer race and give up when they are almost done? Because it’s easier. Don’t take the easy way out of your writing. Finish the race and complete what you set out to do. Don’t quit. You will have an amazing sense of satisfaction and a major confidence boost when you finish what you start. This gives you momentum and you’ll find yourself saying, if I could finish that, I can finish the next thing.
If you’re struggling to finish your race (manuscript, blog, poem, speech), remember that resistance is most powerful at the finish line. Take the resistance that you’re experiencing as a sign that you are so close to the end. Don’t give up now; you can do it! X LLB
January 23, 2019– I’ve never been a good listener. My husband, on the other hand, is a professional listener. Seriously, he’s the best listener and observer that I’ve ever met. He listens not with the intent to reply, but with the intent of learning something. He’s always said to me, “If you listen you might learn something instead of talking all of the time.” He’s right, and for years I struggled to listen, to really listen to what people were saying. Listening is only half of the battle. According to scientists, only 7% of what is said is verbally communicated, the other 93% is non-verbal.
So, how does becoming a better listener help us write better? Here’s how:
It Inspires Us. I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve been out in public at a coffee shop or waiting in line and have overheard a juicy conversation. Some of these conversations have even made it onto the pages of some of my books. By listening and observing people in public, this allows us as authors, not only to come up with story/dialogue ideas, but it lets us correctly write and convey the body language of our characters.
It reminds us that less is more. I’m a huge believer of why use eight words when four will do. When we listen instead of speak, we become acutely aware of people who talk too much. We observe the ramblers, the non-stop talkers, and the interrupters and they remind us not to blather on in our manuscripts. Our eyes glaze over while listening to them talk, and we like our readers, eventually tune out and our thoughts wander onto other more interesting things. As an author, the last thing we want is for our reader to lose interest in what we are saying.
It gives us credibility. By listening to the way that conversations flow around us, we become better writers. Our dialogue is believable and fluid. We observe the way that people speak, and the terms used, and the pauses, and double entendres. When we write in the way that we talk, we reach a greater audience and our written character dialogue seems more natural and less forced.
The next time you feel like interrupting someone, don’t. Instead, observe everything about them, the words they use, their gestures, and of course their body language. I promise that doing this one thing will make you a better writer. X LLB
January 21, 2019– Being an author is fun! Book signings and launch parties, and seeing your book on the shelf in the bookstore are definite perks of the job, but there’s a certain type of person who shouldn’t be an author. I’m not saying there are people who can’t be authors, I’m saying that there are people who shouldn’t be authors. Ready to find out who those people are? Here we go! You shouldn’t be an author if:
You aren’t willing to physically work hard. Know what’s funny? That most people think that being an author is easy and that the hardest part is writing the book. Well, I’m here to smash that misconception into a million shiny pieces and tell you the truth. The truth is, being an author is hard. It’s physically and mentally demanding and if you don’t believe me, follow me around during the day of a book signing or launch. Who sets up the table? Who plans the display? Who brings the books? Who gets the dates and locations sorted? Who orders the inventory? Who makes sure that the signage and marketing are on point and convey a purposeful message? Who advertises the event? Who invites everyone they know? Who does the social media promotion? Who stands there for hours in the middle of a store promoting their book while the general public ignores them or pretends not to see them? Who takes a gamble on events and drags everything they own to said event just in the hopes that they’ll sell their books? WE DO. AUTHORS DO. No one does it for us, and we are directly responsible for our success. Oh, and if you’re thinking, yeah, but if you’re traditionally published your publisher does all of this for you. WRONG. The tides are turning and now, more than ever, authors are responsible for most of this stuff, if not all.
You hate and/or are scared of rejection. I’ve personally been rejected enough times that the rejection letters could easily wallpaper the side of my house. But did I give up? No. If you hate rejection, give up easily, are easily discouraged and allow people’s opinions to dictate your success or allow those opinions to force you to give up on yourself and your dreams, being an author isn’t for you. To be in this game, you have to welcome and get used to rejection, because every no, leads to a yes eventually.
You have a thin skin. You will be ridiculed, have people pick apart your work, have people tell you that they hated your book and that you’re a no talent hack, you’ll have people (my extended family) unfollow you on social media because they say you post too much, you’ll get hate mail, you’ll have people say that you should move on to something different, you’ll be reviewed online with less than stellar reviews, you’ll take complaints, and you’ll be absolutely hung by your ankles by people who attended your speaking engagement and said the best part about your speech was your shoes. Yes. This is just a piece of what I’ve experienced as an author. And this isn’t even the worst part. As an author in the public eye, you’re subjecting yourself to all of this and more. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. But, you have a choice to either take what these people say, believe it and get out of the game forever, or you can keep going, keep improving, and keep living life on your terms. Let’s face it, the only people who are going to discourage you from living your dream, are the people who gave up on theirs.
You lack discipline. You’re late, or you miss deadlines, or you aren’t writing every single day of your life, or aren’t willing to do late nights and early mornings, being an author is something you should seriously reconsider. Authors, I would like to think, are some of the most disciplined people on the planet. We do the things we have to do before doing the things that we want to do. Would I rather be outside or poolside, or on vacation, or reading a book instead of writing one? Sure, but there are things that need to be done before any of the other things can take place. A quote that I have hanging on the wall above my desk reads, “You will not always be motivated, so you must learn to be disciplined.” This keeps me in check and reminds me that even though I don’t feel like writing, editing, working, running my business today, or whatever it may be, that I’m going to anyway no matter how I feel.
You are horribly shy and/or unwilling to interact with the public. People don’t buy your book, they buy you. Your success is hugely influenced by the way that you interact with the public. If you’re at a book signing and you think that you’re going to sit in the chair behind the table with a stack of books, with hands folded in front of you, waiting patiently for people to line up to see you, you’ve got another thing coming. YOU ARE NOT STEPHEN KING AND NO ONE IS HERE TO SEE YOU. Read that again and if you’re offended by that, send me some hate mail, or re-read number 3 on this list and get over yourself. You have to hustle, you have to interact, and you genuinely have to be interested in your readers. You have to get out there, approach them, and tell them about yourself and your work. If you’re not willing to do this, find another career because you’ll never cut it.
Are you one of the people who shouldn’t be an author? I hope not, but if so, remember that it’s never too late to change. X LLB
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