Books & Such Literary Management http://www.booksandsuch.com Fri, 29 Apr 2016 07:01:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Internet Marketing Tips http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/internet-marketing-tips/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/internet-marketing-tips/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 07:01:08 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=26973 Blogger: Rachel Kent

We all use the internet for marketing these days. It’s the way to reach a large audience with relatively little trouble or expense. I have listed some free and inexpensive marketing ideas in a blog post before, …

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Blogger: Rachel Kent

We all use the internet for marketing these days. It’s the way to reach a large audience with relatively little trouble or expense. I have listed some free and inexpensive marketing ideas in a blog post before, but this time I’d like to give you some tips on how to market successfully online.

  1. Target the appropriate audience. If your Facebook friend list is mostly all writers and publishing professionals, this isn’t the place to put in the marketing time and energy–unless you are writing a book for writers. Pay for a targeted ad for your audience or market to your fan/professional page instead of your personal page.
  2. Always research the rules for contests on the site(s) you are using before hosting one. These rules do change frequently, so don’t assume that they are the same as the last time you held a contest or drawing.
  3. Review the CAN-SPAM Act before sending any email newsletters or email updates. The penalty can be as much as $16,000 (!!!!) per each email in violation, so it’s not worth the risk. Here is the link to the FTC page: https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business
  4. Personalize your posts. If you are going to post a picture of a book, jazz it up a little. Be in the picture, too, or have your pet in the photo. Or at least have the book in a fun location–like with flowers or a fancy tea set. I am guilty of trying to keep the personal out of posts and this can make a post less appealing. More people will share or re-tweet a personalized post.

I hope these tips are helpful! Please share any useful marketing tips that you might have, too!

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Best Use of Story Flashbacks http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/care-treatment-flashbacks/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/care-treatment-flashbacks/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 07:01:49 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=26961 Blogger: Mary Keeley

I was talking to a new novelist recently about where to begin her story and the best way to introduce important backstory information about her main characters. It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about anything craft …

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Blogger: Mary Keeley

I was talking to a new novelist recently about where to begin her story and the best way to introduce important backstory information about her main characters. It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about anything craft related. Maybe now is a good time for a refresher on the best use of story flashbacks.

First rule: Put yourself in the reader’s shoes. Writing well is all about giving readers what they need when they need it.

Readers pick up your book because they’re interested in the current story. Since a flashback scene is “old news” and lacks imminent action or tension, there has to be a compelling reason for its interruption in the action of the current story or readers might lose interest. Here are two primary reasons to use a flashback:

  • When the flashback scene provides a depth of insight into the main character’s motivation that enriches the current story and keeps readers caring about what happens next.
  • When a flashback to an event that happened years before the story begins, which is vitally important for the reader to know in order to fully understand the tension or mysterious circumstances of the current story.

Done well, readers love a flashback because it satisfies their curiosity to Flashback_2016understand more about a main character—perhaps even more than the character knows about herself at that point in the story—because it adds depth to the character’s struggle and desire to accomplish her goal. Readers engage with her and are compelled to keep reading to find out if she eventually grasps what she’s striving for.

Second rule: Use these guidelines to write an effective flashback.

  • Write it as a complete scene. Some backstory might require several pages to give readers the full impact of its affect on the main character. Other times you might be able to get it across in a paragraph. Eliminate unnecessary details. They will be an annoyance to the reader, who wants to get back to the current story.
  • Never use a flashback in the early chapters of your book, when you’re introducing the main characters to readers and building the action. Readers will be confused before they’ve had time to engage in the story.
  • Where to insert a flashback is vitally important. Insert it after a powerful scene in your story, either a high point or a low point. It must directly impact the main character’s action in the current story.
  • Enter into the flashback in one sentence, noting for readers the time and place in which it happened so they know where they’re being taken and won’t get frustrated and lose interest. End the flashback in one sentence. This alerts readers they are returning to the current story.
  • Use past tense for the entire flashback when the current story is in present tense. Use past perfect tense for the flashback when the current story is in past tense.
  • Wait to insert a flashback as long as possible, until the critical moment when readers absolutely must have the backstory information to understand the full impact of the scene in the current story. Leaving some mystery in the story keeps readers turning pages to get clues. You hook readers when they worry about the main characters. If readers have all the answers too early, there is nothing to keep them interested.
  • Avoid using too many flashbacks. Something isn’t right if you need to use more than one or two in your full-length novel.

In what ways do you struggle with the effective use of flashbacks in your novel? Can you identify why you were annoyed by a flashback in a novel you read? Conversely, do your remember a flashback that caused your interest to soar in the current story?

TWEETABLES:

Do you know how to use flashbacks in your novel effectively? Here are some tips. Click to Tweet.

The use of flashbacks is all about what readers need and when. Here’s why. Click to Tweet.

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Yes, Your Novel Would Make a Great Movie http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/yes-novel-make-great-movie/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/yes-novel-make-great-movie/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 05:18:46 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=26954 Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

One of the things agents often hear from novelists (and sometimes memoirists) is, “My book would make a great movie!” Authors want to know if their agent will work to sell the movie rights to their book, …

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Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

One of the things agents often hear from novelists (and sometimes memoirists) is, “My book would make a great movie!” Authors want to know if their agent will work to sell the movie rights to their book, because after all, their book is dramatic, it’s visual, it’s action-packed, it’s emotionally deep — it’s a natural for the movies!

And you know what? Most of the time, we agree! Your book WOULD make a good movie. If it’s a good story, worth telling, then it probably could be told equally well in the form of a film.

movie-reelBut whether your book is dramatic or visual or compelling enough to make a good movie isn’t the question.

The questions are…

  • Is the book selling like hotcakes? It it a New York Times bestseller?
  • Has there been tremendous buzz in the publishing industry around the book?
  • Was the book sold at auction with interest from numerous publishing houses?
  • Is the book racking up glowing reviews from major outlets?

It’s not whether your book would make a great movie—it probably would—but whether it has these other elements that make it an attractive prospect for a film production company.

And those elements are hard to come by. Out of thousands and thousands of books published each year, only a small handful become movies.

Your literary agent already believes in you and your book. They think your book is great—that’s why they took it on. They’ve sold it to a publisher, so don’t take it personally if they aren’t spending a lot of time aggressively trying to get your movie rights optioned. The odds are high against getting a movie option, and your agent’s time might be better spent elsewhere.

If there are signs your book would be a good fit for a production company we know about, or we get inquiries, we will always follow up and do our best to get a film option. Otherwise, it’s not going to be our top priority.

Have you dreamed of having your book made into a movie? 

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Herding Cats (Again) http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/herding_cats_again/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/herding_cats_again/#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 06:48:16 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=26951 Blogger: Wendy Lawton

As you know by now, I’m an avid proponent of productivity systems. The weekend before last, my business/ organizational coach came to spend the weekend with me. This time it was to be a friend event, not …

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Blogger: Wendy Lawton

As you know by now, I’m an avid proponent of productivity systems. The weekend before last, my business/ organizational coach came to spend the weekend with me. This time it was to be a friend event, not a coaching session, but Becky cannot help herself. On Saturday afternoon she insisted we take some time to go over my new system.

Within a few minutes she hit upon a flaw that we were able to fix immediately. What a difference this one tweak made! Now everything is showing up on all my devices with appropriate due dates. Since she left I’ve been doubly productive without having had to add hours long into the night.dreamstime_xs_35149205

It reminded me of a blog I posted seven years ago. I think it bears reposting. Here it is:

A friend sent me a Susan Branch calendar. On the front is a quote I can’t stop thinking about: “I’m trying to arrange my life so I don’t even have to be present.”

Bingo! That’s what I keep aiming for. I’m looking for the auto-pilot method of work. If my systems are good enough— if I keep everything humming, if everything is filed, answered, acted upon, gathered, sorted, classified, organized and logged— won’t the magic happen whether I’m here or not?

Hmmmm. Probably not.

David Allen, the guru of productivity, says in his book, Getting Things Done, “It’s possible for a person to have an overwhelming number of things to do and still function productively with a clear head and a positive sense of relaxed control.” He talks about elevated levels of effectiveness and efficiency. Did you catch all those terms: function productively, clear head, relaxed control, effectiveness and efficiency? Can you see my hand waving madly in the air? I want what he’s having!

Want the truth? Organization makes my life so much better, but the process is like herding cats. I just get the herd moving in one direction when two or three meander off. Just when I feel like my systems are humming along, I find a hole in my management of information or I find I’m memory-challenged in yet another area and need to develop a new tracking system.

I want to be sure to extract any sense of guilt from our discussion of organization. [guilt off] Developing and implementing your system of organization is an ongoing process. It takes time for a new skill to become a habit. Trial-and-error are part of the process. Have fun with it. Be creative. Look at it as challenge.

Rather than end on a positive note (that’s too easy), let’s talk about what not to do:

  • Don’t make yourself crazy trying to attain perfection. Do the best you can and savor the incremental improvements. Celebrate progress.
  • Don’t allow perfectionism to keep you from developing an interim solution. Maybe you can’t redesign your whole office at this time, but you can reorganize your file drawers.
  • Don’t be afraid to call in help. Professional organizers might be an excellent investment for a drowning writer. It’s a bottom-line decision. If a professional could find you extra hours to do your more lucrative job, it doesn’t make sense to do it yourself. If not a professional, maybe you have a friend who is a master of organization.
  • And as you get more organized and find extra hours in your day, don’t fill them all up with more work. We live in a culture that keeps trying to accomplish more with fewer people. We’re working harder and longer and saying yes to more projects than ever. Uber-productivity can become an idol in itself. Time and energy are finite. No matter how organized we become, we’ll still hit the wall when we’ve filled every nanosecond of our lives with work. We need to work smart and effectively, but unless we have time to live and dream, we’ll all shrivel. (And shriveled writers do not write good books.)

The nice thing about herding cats is that if we take the time to follow the occasional meanderer, we could just happen onto a great new discovery.

Can you share at least one tip that helped you herd the cats of your over-scheduled life or out of control work?

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Writers on Writing http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/writers-writing-process/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/writers-writing-process/#comments Mon, 25 Apr 2016 01:14:06 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=26934 Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

What could be more satisfying than reading an articulate writer’s view of the writing process? Take a gander at some quotes I gleaned from the most recent edition of The Authors Guild Bulletin. And pick …

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Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

What could be more satisfying than reading an articulate writer’s view of the writing process? Take a gander at some quotes I gleaned from the most recent edition of The Authors Guild Bulletin. And pick the one that resonates the most with you.

Willa Cather

There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.

Roxana Robinson

Writing about the two worlds a writer lives in: “The other world you’re living in, the world of the book, is just as vivid [as the real world]. You’re living with people you’ve never seen, though you know them as well as you know everyone else in your life. But it’s not always easy to connect with them.

Sometimes it seems as though a translucent scrim separates you, and whenever you’re not writing, you’re worried that you won’t be able to get past the scrim.”

Harry Mark Petrakis, a 92-year-old author, describing what his writing day ID-10075506was like when he was younger:

After pulling down the blinds to block the view of the “real world,” he put in 10- to 12-hour days writing. “When I finally went to bed, curled beside my wife, sleep eluded me. My mind swirled with the faces and voices of my characters, with the skeletal structuring of still unwritten scenes. After I had fallen asleep, the characters in my book invaded my slumber, playing out scenes already written or still unwritten.

For those months that I wrote, the world of my book consumed my life. The hours I spent away from the work were fretful and restless, fragmented between fantasy and reality. I had become a man with a fever, fully functioning only when I was writing.”

Tom Wolfe

“There are two kinds of writer’s block. One is when you freeze up because you think you can’t do it. The other is when you think it’s not worth doing.”

Matt Bell

“Novels have two primary sources: writers’ life experiences or their art experiences…While it’s popular in publicity to focus on the life experience that informs a book, a writer’s art experiences are just as responsible for how a story emerges from the imagination and eventually appears on the page.

As Cormac McCarthy once said: ‘The ugly fact is books are made out of books. The novel depends for its life on the novels that have been written.'”

Patricia Cornwell, whose childhood was filled with destructive adults (abandonment, molestation, parent’s mental illness, abuse in foster care), on why she writes about psychopaths in her Kay Scarpetta crime novels:

“I’m supposed to be writing my memoirs, and I keep going, ‘I kind of already am. I do it in every book.’ That’s what artists do. We take things and filter it through us, and it comes out in a different form.”

Donald Barthelme

I will never write about the weather in any story.”

Marilynne Robinson

“I don’t write drafts. The first sentence in my novels is the first sentence in my notebook, and I write from beginning to end. I don’t revise. The scene is written in the order in which it comes to the page. In a way, it’s as if there are different voices in my mind. The illusion of hearing the language is always very strong with me.”

Dwight Garner

Good lines alone don’t make a book, especially a novel. But string enough of them together, and you’re well on your way.”

Laura Amy Schlitz

“I love making up characters. I could make up characters till the cows come home. Plot’s what’s hard. Very hard.”

Elizabeth Strout, best known for Olive Kitteridge. Olive is a character with the winsome personality of a snapping turtle:

I like to think I come to the page without judgments. I always have hope for my characters. I have to come with a purity of heart.”

Lorin Stein on young writers who have stepped away from tweets and posts to dig deep:

“By writing offline, literally and metaphorically, this new generation of writers gives us the intimacy, the assurance of their solitude. They let us read the word ‘I’ and feel that it’s not attached to a product. They let us read an essay or a stanza, and feel the silence around it–the actual, physical stillness of a body when it’s deep in thought. It can’t be faked, in life or on the page. We see the opposite all around us every day, but to me, that kind of writing matters now more than ever before–precisely because it’s becomes so hard to do.”

Tell us which quotes spoke the loudest to you. And tell us what inspiring quotes you have around your office to spur you on to your best work–whether they’re on Post-Its or plaques.

TWEETABLES

Writers reflect on the writing process–and inspire us. Click to tweet.

Feeling alone as you try to write something really good? Then read this. Click to tweet.

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Benefit of having an Agent: Unexpected Publishing Opportunities http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/benefit-authors-agents-unexpected-publishing-opportunities/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/benefit-authors-agents-unexpected-publishing-opportunities/#comments Fri, 22 Apr 2016 07:01:47 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=26929 Blogger: Rachel Kent

One of the great ways we can serve our clients is to pass along the surprise publishing opportunities that come our way. A lot of times, editors from publishing houses will send along notes about what they …

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Blogger: Rachel Kent

One of the great ways we can serve our clients is to pass along the surprise publishing opportunities that come our way. A lot of times, editors from publishing houses will send along notes about what they are looking for to agents they enjoy working with and we are able to match a client with the editor’s need.

Here are some examples:

1) An editor came to one of our agents and asked if a  big-name author would be available to write a book on a specific topic. That author didn’t have time in her schedule for a new project so the agent suggested another client to fill the need.

2) An editor told us that he was looking for a book in a certain genre and wondered if we had an author who could write it. We suggested a few of our clients who were ready and willing to write that book; the editor picked the best fit.

3) A contracted author at a publishing house missed his or her deadline, and the editor filled the scheduling hole with a Books & Such client’s project because the book was already completed and ready to go.

4) An editor let us know about a new collection that the publishing house was putting together and we were able to send guidelines out for clients to audition for the openings.

I’d say opportunities like this pop up at least fifteen times each year. We love it when we’re able to match a publisher’s need with one of our client’s writing interests.

This does require a writer to be willing to write a book that isn’t exactly what he or she had planned and sometimes requires the author to come up with a story-line for a book really quickly or to change plans to meet a quick deadline. So it’s very important to remain flexible if you would like to fill an unforeseen publishing slot. These openings have allowed some of our debut writers to get books published that have then launched their writing careers.

Having an agent can bring wonderful publishing opportunities your way. It’s because of our relationships with these editors and our reputation in the industry that these opportunities are presented to us for our clients. I hope if you don’t have an agent yet that this blog will encourage you to keep seeking representation and, if you are already represented, know that this is one more thing that your agent is doing for you. While actively working to sell your current projects, we are also promoting you and your ability to write to fill unexpected publishing opportunities.

Do you believe you would be flexible enough to fill a need on short notice?

Does this type of writing appeal to you?

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Authors Helping Authors http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/authors-helping-authors/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/authors-helping-authors/#comments Thu, 21 Apr 2016 07:01:14 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=26917 Blogger: Mary Keeley

Through a myriad of conversations this week, I was once again profoundly struck by how willing Christian authors are to help each other. Published authors freely mentor unpublished writers. New writers help to promote fellow authors’ new …

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Blogger: Mary Keeley

Through a myriad of conversations this week, I was once again profoundly struck by how willing Christian authors are to help each other. Published authors freely mentor unpublished writers. New writers help to promote fellow authors’ new releases. You won’t find this prevailing in general market publishing or in other business sectors. And have you noticed how this characteristic seems to endure through good seasons and bad in the CBA industry? This is an amazing phenomenon, and today I want to celebrate authors helping authors.

Many accomplished authors give generously of their time to mentor newer writers they get to know and in whom they see the necessary passion and promise. Thank you, authors. You know who you are.Authors Helping Authors

The moral support you give each other is immeasurable. We see it all the time among this blog community. When you are together at conferences, on social media, and in email conversations, encouragement is a present companion, am I right? You readily celebrate another’s victory, even while still waiting for your own. You give your writer friend a supportive but honest critique, though it might sting for a moment, because it will help to improve the book.

You share resources with each other to help in their research. You pass along industry information to each other. You introduce a new writer you met at a conference to your Facebook followers. You share guest blogs with writer friends to expand each other’s audience reach. You participate in each other’s book launches as enthusiastic influencers. You are willing to read a new writer’s manuscript for potential endorsement.

And I have to go beyond the context and mention editors who, in a rejection, go on to offer you specific suggestions for improving your book. Keeping in mind how many submissions they must wade through, be encouraged by this kind of rejection because the editor sees potential in you or she wouldn’t spend the time.

Whenever you wonder if God still is with you on your journey to write books that bring him honor, just look around you and see his hand in those he brings your way.

What have I missed celebrating? Recount for us a time when you were on the receiving end of another author’s support. And a time when you were able to be on the giving end, offering help to a fellow author. NO NAMES, PLEASE. These authors don’t gift other authors for self-gratification.

TWEETABLE:

Celebrating authors helping authors today. See the many ways CBA authors help each other. Click to Tweet.

Read how authors can support each other along the writing journey. Click to Tweet.

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To Call or Not to Call? http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/call-not-call/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/call-not-call/#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2016 05:16:15 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=26903 Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

A lot of people wonder when it’s okay to call an agent or editor on the phone. The simple answer is: When they’re YOUR agent or editor.

Let me start off by saying, if you’re my client, …

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Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

A lot of people wonder when it’s okay to call an agent or editor on the phone. The simple answer is: When they’re YOUR agent or editor.

Let me start off by saying, if you’re my client, I love talking to you! Don’t be afraid to call. Don’t be thinking “I don’t want to bother you” or “I don’t want to be a high maintenance client.” If you need to call, call. If I can’t answer, I won’t. Leave a message, I’ll call you back!

If you don’t need to call immediately but want to schedule a chat, so much the better. Shoot your agent an email and set it up, so that you both have it on the calendar. This will increase your chances of connecting when it’s a good time for both. We agents spend a great deal of time on the phone, talking with clients and editors, and often these phone calls are long. So if you call, you might not catch us.

talking on phoneFor anyone who’s not represented by an agent and not contracted with a publishing house, then it’s almost never okay to call an agent or editor on the phone. I say “almost” but honestly, I can’t think of an exception. This is why God created email, right? Don’t call to ask questions about submissions, definitely don’t call to follow up on a submission, don’t call to chat or pitch your project.

By the way, the millennial generation seems to prefer NEVER to talk on the phone. And in general, they don’t like voicemail and many confess they never check it. Email and text messaging are increasingly becoming the way to communicate. So while most agents are happy to have their clients call them, you can never go wrong with email.

What about you? Do you prefer phone, email, texting… or what?
 
Image copyright: massonforstock / 123RF Stock Photo

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Read and Listen http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/read-and-listen/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/read-and-listen/#comments Tue, 19 Apr 2016 06:09:20 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=26897 Blogger: Wendy Lawton

As writers we know how important it is to read the written word but did you know it is equally important to listen to the written word? Yes, read and listen.

I know you’ve heard writing experts …

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Blogger: Wendy Lawton

As writers we know how important it is to read the written word but did you know it is equally important to listen to the written word? Yes, read and listen.

I know you’ve heard writing experts tell you that when you get close to your final draft you should read it out loud. Listening engages a different part of the brain than visually reading. When you are listening to your work being read you’ll often catch repetitious words, overused phrases, clunky sentences and jerky rhythm.

It works for pleasure readers as well. Lately I’ve become a fan of Amazon’s WhisperSync technology. When you buy an ebook, you can add the audio version of the book for a few dollars more. Quite a bargain when you consider that an unabridged audio book usually runs about thirty-five dollars.dreamstime_xs_68436363

Or if you have a regular Audible account where you pay $8.99 a month and get one credit toward an audio book, you can connect those to your ebook purchase so you can both read and listen. One credit generally equals one audio book.

Let me tell you why I’m a fan of having both the ebook and audio book. As a professional it lets me experience the book in both modalities– visual and aural. It allows me to read and listen for the cadence and voice of the writer.

But there’s a more practical reason as well. With WhisperSync you can switch back and forth between ebook and audio book. WhisperSync always knows what page you were on whether you were reading or listening. If you do both at the same time you can listen to a beautiful narration of a book while reading the words. WhisperSync even turns the pages for you at the appropriate time.

I found it perfect for my pleasure reading. I generally only have bits of time here and there for non-work reading. If I am using WhisperSync on a Saturday, say, I may set aside an hour to read in the morning but if I just can’t put the book down, I switch to listening as I do housework or cook. I’ve got a great set of Bluetooth earbuds that I can pop in and keep listening while getting groceries or going for a walk. If we’re going for a drive, I can plug my iPad or iPhone into the car and listen to the book over the car speaker system. Right now, Keith and I are listening to Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. I can even listen to a book on my Apple Watch. (Geek alert.)

So, all that to say that Amazon is giving away a free book/audiobook with WhisperSync if you’d like to try it out. It’s a fascinating technology. The bonus is that when a writer will both read and listen to books, his own writing will improve.

So here’s where you find the free offer. I don’t know how long it will be offered: WhisperSync trial offerDisclaimer: I am in no way associated with Amazon, nor do we receive any remuneration for your signing up. It’s just a no-cost way to try a fascinating new technology.

So, how many of you have used the WhisperSync option? How do you like it? Have you read aloud your own work? Does it help you spot problems? Why do you think that is?

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Why an Agent’s List is Never Full http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/why-an-agents-list-is-never-full/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/why-an-agents-list-is-never-full/#comments Mon, 18 Apr 2016 01:00:14 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=26839 Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

I posted this blog in the past, but it remains just as relevant today as when I first wrote it. Not to mention, I don’t know that I’ve seen this sort of information available anywhere else. …

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Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

I posted this blog in the past, but it remains just as relevant today as when I first wrote it. Not to mention, I don’t know that I’ve seen this sort of information available anywhere else. So, read on!

Any writer who wants an agent knows how hard acquiring one can be. Online discussions at times suggest an agent acquires new clients only periodically, when he finds his list isn’t full. But that isn’t true.

Here’s the skinny:

  • Most agents are always open to new clients. It’s a matter of being the right kind of client.

Who in Agent-ville would say no to an author whose books regularly appear in the top 10 on a best-selling list? Well, if that author wrote cookbooks, and the agent has never sold a cookbook, nor does he know any cookbook editors, the agent might not see himself as being able to serve that client well.

But if a best-selling author approached an agent who regularly represents thumbs upthat type of writing, the agent would be highly unlikely to say, “I’m sorry, my list is full.”

  • Agents generally want a balance of types of writing they represent.

Yes, agents, especially in the general market, have specialties. The general market is so large that if an agent were open to representing any sort of writing, she would find it difficult to keep track of which editor is working at which publishing house, what each editor is looking for, and how to cast a net wide enough to establish and maintain relationships with all those editors.

In smaller markets, such as CBA, agents tend more toward representing both fiction and nonfiction, and often they have clients in many genres and categories. These agents often want a balance between genres and between fiction and nonfiction.

An agent’s list might be “full” in that he has as many historical novelists as he thinks he can place in the current market. Or his list might be “open” if he is aggressively looking for more memoirs.

Agents are clear on their websites as to what they represent and don’t represent, but within those confines, an agent can decide to ramp up the number of clients in a category that’s growing or to slim down clients in a genre that’s not getting much traction with publishing houses. But that does not constitute a full list, by any means. Only the agent is likely to know the ways in which she wants to shift her client base.

  • Agents generally think in terms of a potential client’s career level and seek a certain balance of clients.

Each level in a career–debut, mid-list, building, established–requires a different sort of effort from the agent. For example, one of the hardest tasks an agent ever undertakes is placing a new writer with a publishing house. Lots of heavy lifting is involved, including working closely with the writer in preparing a proposal that will garner a yes from a publisher.

A mid-list author nowadays is being squeezed hard by the industry. Fewer publishers are willing to stay with a mid-lister if sales aren’t nicely trending up. That’s a very different kind of challenge from a debut writer, but the task of keeping a mid-list author contracted still is a time-consuming challenge.

A building author also needs a lot of attention because, with focused effort, this writer could move onto a much more significant career.

An established author has so many opportunities and so much that can be done with ancillary rights that great chunks of an agent’s time are soaked up with serious detail work. Even the task of coordinating efforts with the rest of this author’s team takes a lot of time.

For an agent, this way of categorizing clients leads to conclusions about whom the agent can effectively represent. If a newbie writer approaches the agent just as an agent’s current client moves from the building level to the established level, the agent might respond that his list is “full,” meaning he doesn’t want to distract his attention from a critical time in a client’s career. Or, if an agent has mostly debut and mid-list clients, she might not want to take on additional clients in those levels because her list isn’t balanced.

  • An agent’s list should not remain stagnant.

Each publishing house must buy a certain number of new titles every year. Each editor is expected, on a regular basis, to bring money-making proposals to the publishing committee. Both of those truths add up to a wonderful equation: Agents need to consistently offer new, exciting projects. And that means agents almost always are open to that new client the agent can introduce to the publishing world. Not to mention, this is one of the most satisfying parts of being an agent. All of these needs cause an agent to be reluctant to ever declare her client list full.

  • You should never assume an agent’s list is full until he tells you it is.

Sometimes, if a writer is connected to others in the publishing industry, she will put out feelers about an agent, asking writing friends if So-and-So is open to new clients. How would anyone but that agent know? Considering the delicate balance the agent is trying to achieve with varying types of clients, being “full” or “open” is an ever-shifting condition.

In what ways does this post shift your thoughts about agents being open to new clients? Have you ever held back from connecting with an agent because you assumed that person’s list was full?

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