Books & Such Literary Management http://www.booksandsuch.com Fri, 22 May 2015 07:01:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Pitching in Person http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/pitching-in-person/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/pitching-in-person/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 07:01:37 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=24616 Blogger: Rachel Kent

I am diving in now to my preparations for ICRS at the end of June. ICRS is a wonderful place for agents to meet face-to-face with editors to talk about our clients’ projects. There’s great benefit to …

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Blogger: Rachel Kent

I am diving in now to my preparations for ICRS at the end of June. ICRS is a wonderful place for agents to meet face-to-face with editors to talk about our clients’ projects. There’s great benefit to pitching a project in person and it is the same for authors who attend writers’ conferences. Here are some of the reasons why pitching a project in person is so beneficial:

1) It puts a face to the name and personalizes the project.

When agents or authors send query letters, they become one letter in a very crowded inbox. The project inside might be fantastic, but that query email looks just like all of the others. It’s hard for it to stand apart. Also, it is hard for agents and editors to get excited about reading a pile of queries (we get SO many of them), so the recipient of that email might already be in a bad mood before he or she even looks at your amazing idea.

When you pitch in person, you are able to have that editor or agent’s attention for a number of minutes and you can put your enthusiasm for the project into your pitch. The passion you have for the idea can be catching.

And as a whole, our agency finds more clients at writers’ conferences than anywhere else. It might be worth it for you to try a conference if you have been putting it off. The personal pitch does make a difference!

2) You can get instant feedback.

You can find out immediately if you’re off the mark or if you’ve hit a home run instead of waiting for months wondering what happened to your query. Or the editor/agent might have feedback to help change the project in some way to make it stronger. Because you have some time together, you are likely to get more details than just a yes or a no. Sending a query doesn’t give you the same opportunity.

3) You can find out what that publishing house/editor/agent is looking for and see if you can fit the need.

When we pitch in person at ICRS, we always take time to listen to the editors and ask questions. This is a good practice for conferences, too. Don’t spend your entire appointment going on and on about your idea. Save a couple of minutes to ask what the agent is passionate about representing or what specifically the publishing house is looking for. You might find that you have an idea to fit that need.

What other benefits of pitching in person might you add to the list?

Do you have a fun or memorable pitch story to share?

 

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How DOES a Writer Write so Fast? http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/how-does-a-writer-write-so-fast/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/how-does-a-writer-write-so-fast/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 07:02:08 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=24611 Blogger: Michelle Ule

Sitting in for the traveling Mary Keeley

In response to my post last week about “Plotting to Save Writing Time,” I mentioned in the comments that someone I knew had written an 85,000 word novel …

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Blogger: Michelle Ule

Sitting in for the traveling Mary Keeley

In response to my post last week about “Plotting to Save Writing Time,” I mentioned in the comments that someone I knew had written an 85,000 word novel in 19 days.

I decided to ask her how she did it.

This post, therefore is a follow up.

The writer, Sarah Tipton, lives in Alaska with her husband and five home schooled children.

She’s also a runner.

In addition to the novel she finished last Friday, she wrote another one in November for NaNo–and that one took her 15 writing days.writer Sarah Tipton

Neither of the two projects have been extensively edited, Sarah explained, but the reworked opening chapter of the November project is a semi-finalist for the Genesis contest.

So, how does she manage such extensive writing with a busy family?

“When planning to write a novel in such a short time, I completely clear my schedule as much as I can. We homeschool, so I have the luxury of taking vacations when they fit our schedule. Also, my kids are older now—7-14 years old—so they’re able to help around the house. They already do their own laundry and each has a cooking day every week, so that frees up some of my time.

“Those are also things that we worked on as a family for months before I ever tried writing a novel in a month. My husband and I go to a 6 a.m. gym class year ‘round, and the kids’ have a gym class 3 days a week which I can’t clear off the schedule, so I run during that hour.

“My husband told me years ago, when I first started writing, that he liked spending time with me in the evenings. So I stop by 8 p.m. I also try to meet my word count in time for dinner, but I don’t feel guilty about working through dinner because it’s just 4 weeks. And I joined the kids during lunch and read to them then, so it’s not like I go into total hibernation.”

Sarah has a room in which to write with a door to shut out the noise–though she notes the Wii and a television are in that same room which means the kids don’t get to use it during her marathon writing sessions.

“I often play music through the surround sound speakers while writing, so that drowns out any loud noises from elsewhere in the house. Most of the time, the kids are really good about not interrupting. Because of that, I make sure we all go out to celebrate after I write “The End,” and I tell them that they helped make it all possible.”

It should also be noted her husband and children do the laundry.

What motivated her to write in such an intense fashion?

I decided to try writing a novel in a month because I’d spent almost 18 months not finishing a manuscript. My first manuscript was completed in 7 months—idea to agent submission—so I felt confident I could accomplish that, but what seemed to be getting in my way was to have only a couple of hours here or there to write.

With only 2-3 hours at most a day at my computer, I couldn’t make much progress because there’s always other writing related things to do too—emails, critiques, etc. So I hoped that by clearing my schedule and working on only one manuscript and no other writing related things, I’d find the focus and the word count goal would help me finish another manuscript.

And it did!

Since Friday’s post was about plotting to increase speed, I asked Sarah how much plotting she did before sitting down to write.

“I haven’t found a consistent plotting style that works for every manuscript. But for both the NaNo project and the more recent one, I wrote out a summary of each chapter before writing.

I did not write a summary for each chapter prior to starting the writing process though. Both times, I had only about half the manuscript thought out and summarized.

On the weekends, I’d look ahead in the story and prepare for another quarter.

For NaNo, my chapter summaries were pretty close to what I wrote and I only had to add-to on the weekends.

For the more recent project, I found the story didn’t progress at the speed I’d expected and I ended up rewriting future chapter summaries after the first week.

While the scenes rarely play out on paper exactly like they play out in my head, the goal and the plot don’t usually deviate too much. So I find taking the time to daydream the story and take notes on it helps the writing to go faster.”

Writing

Writing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The novel ideas, however, didn’t spring from her mind the minute she sat down. Sarah had been thinking about her stories long before she began to type.

“I spent months or years thinking about these characters and the story prior to doing any real work on it—plotting or writing. And another advantage to writing a novel this quickly is that you never really leave the story world. The plot, the characters, the emotions are always right there with you.”

It’s possible the genres Sarah chose made a difference in her ability to write quickly. The NaNo story was a contemporary young adult. Last week’s manuscript was a dystopian YA. An historical might have posed other issues that could have slowed down the writing.

The most important fact, to Sarah, was she was very familiar with her story worlds and characters before she started working on the projects.

She doesn’t stop along the way to fact check when she’s writing, “I did have to look at a calendar to figure out the timeline and weather while I was writing.”

Sarah used placeholders for items she needs to go back to during the editing stages.

“I  have a few places where I just didn’t feel like thinking of names, so one character is [MUSICAL DIRECTOR] which will make the Find-and-Replace easier when I come up with a name.

One night I was tired and put [SOMETHING ELSE, I’M TIRED] instead of completing a sentence.

If it’s not going to affect the plot, I’m comfortable with writing a placeholder and moving on.”

After such an intense writing period, does she get tired of the story?

“Both times, I found myself sad when I was finished writing. It felt like I’d spent an intense three or four weeks hanging out with these really awesome people, and now they’ve boarded a plane and returned home.

Editing is more like emailing or calling them on the phone—no new, exciting adventures involved—and I find editing to be more tiring than writing. That’s when I’ll spend tons of time analyzing and agonizing over scenes and details.”

Speaking of editing, how much does Sarah anticipate needing to do?

“I have about 2 pages of content editing notes. Little things that occurred to me while writing or things a critique partner pointed out. (I had a critiquer reading what I wrote each day this last time because I wanted any story world issues that might affect the plot to be dealt with immediately.)

The NaNo project I spent a week applying those content editing notes and doing a light edit before sending it to a few critiquers for content critiques.

In about a month, after I see the Genesis scoresheets, I’ll be starting a deep edit on that project.

Since I’m back to only 2-3 hours a day to write—and that won’t be exclusively spent editing this manuscript—I anticipate spending 6 months on editing.”

How long did it take for Sarah’s adrenaline to slow down?

“I think I rode the high all weekend!

Knowing you’ve been successful carries on to the next time you are ready to write a novel in a month.

Then, of course, you’re hit with the “what if I can’t do it again?” fears, but you’ve got to push them down and face the new manuscript without any expectations, yet with the confidence that you’ve done this before and can do it again.”

She is exhausted when she finishes, and usually plans a week of vacation afterwards to recover before she returns to her normal homeschooling routine.

Sarah had one more additional point for writers to consider.

“One thing I wanted to add, especially to that article that you shared in your previous post, is to include God.

Pray about the writing every day, and praise him for meeting daily goals.

Honestly, I think it’s the prayer that made the biggest difference in meeting the write-a-novel-in-a-month goal.”

You can learn more about Sarah Tipton at her website:www.sarahtiptonbooks.com

Tweetables

HOW do you write a 75,000 word manuscript in 19 days? Click to Tweet

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How Important is Your Book Title? http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/your-book-title/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/your-book-title/#comments Wed, 20 May 2015 05:00:26 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=24594 Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

I was talking with a writer who mentioned she hadn’t worked too hard to come up with a great title for her book. When I asked why, she said she’d been to a workshop taught by an …

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Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

I was talking with a writer who mentioned she hadn’t worked too hard to come up with a great title for her book. When I asked why, she said she’d been to a workshop taught by an editor at a major publishing house, who said, “Don’t get too attached to your title — there’s a good chance the publisher will change it anyway.”

So the writer interpreted it as “Don’t bother to come up with a great title.”

That’s not what it means!

“Don’t get too attached to your title” is good advice. The corollary is, “Still, come up with the best darn title you can think of!”

It’s true that your publisher might want to change your book title to something they feel is more marketable to your target audience. However, failing to put your due diligence into your title is a big mistake. It’s crucial to present your book to agents and editors with the best title possible, and here’s why:

  • light bulb ideaYour title sets the tone for the project they are about to read.
  • The title hints at the genre or style of book, preparing the reader for what to expect.
  • The title can draw the reader in and pique their interest before they even see page 1.
  • The title is your book’s “first impression,” and your very first opportunity to market your book and make someone want to read it.
  • The title can make the difference between a person wanting to read your proposal — or not.

Don’t underestimate the importance of your title! See my post “How to Title Your Book” for tips on how to brainstorm a good one.

How much do titles play into your book buying decisions? How much effort have you put into titling your own book?

 

TWEETABLES

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Irresistible http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/irresistible/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/irresistible/#comments Tue, 19 May 2015 08:00:42 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=24583 Blogger: Wendy Lawton

Today I’m going to turn my blog on its head and ask you to provide the content in the comment section. I’ll chime in with my thoughts in answer to your comments.

dreamstime_xs_38460990Here’s the question: What do …

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Blogger: Wendy Lawton

Today I’m going to turn my blog on its head and ask you to provide the content in the comment section. I’ll chime in with my thoughts in answer to your comments.

dreamstime_xs_38460990Here’s the question: What do you think makes a writer irresistible to an agent? What is it that we simply can’t turn down?

Let me know first if you are referring to fiction or nonfiction and then offer ONLY ONE THING that you believe makes a writer positively irresistible.Don’t be shy. This is subjective so there are no wrong answers, only food for discussion, right?

Let’s go. . .

 

TWEETABLE:

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Why Writers Write http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/why-writers-write/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/why-writers-write/#comments Mon, 18 May 2015 01:13:26 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=24556 Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

I love finding out what stimulates writers to write. And what urges them on to write a particular piece.

This past week, I read an article about a poet, Jane Hirshfield, who believes poems can transform …

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Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

I love finding out what stimulates writers to write. And what urges them on to write a particular piece.

This past week, I read an article about a poet, Jane Hirshfield, who believes poems can transform the world. Really? (You can read the article here.)

I was attracted to her point that poems show us the subtleties of a situation and keep us from oversimplifying. “One of the current great problems in the world is fundamentalism of every kind—political, spiritual—and poetry is an antidote to fundamentalism. Poetry is about the clarities that you find when you don’t simplify. Poetry is about complexity, nuance, subtlety,” she said.

Good art does that to us; it makes us take note of how complicated and tunnellayered a circumstance can be, or how another person’s motivations might seem obvious and yet…

Good art also creates a connection between the consumer of that art and the creator and reminds us of our points of commonality. Hirshfield makes that point when she talks about how important poetry is when a situation like the Baltimore riots occurs. Both the genesis of the killing of Freddie Gray and the aftermath can be better grasped through poetry, as we connect with how the poet sees and feels about the situation.

And good art can transform the consumer’s way of thinking. “…A poem by one of the two foremost women poets of Japan’s classical age, Izumi Shikibu, …changed my relationship to my own life, permanently and lastingly,” Hirshfield said. “This is in a five-line form called ‘tanka':

“Although the wind

blows terribly here,

moonlight

also leaks between the roof planks

of this ruined house.”

“What I understood from the poem was this,” Hirshfield explains, “If you try to wall yourself off from pain, difficulty, distress—if you try to build a house so solid that the cold wind won’t be able to enter—you will also be keeping from your life beauty and joy. The poem became for me a kind of vow toward permeability. It really let me understand that if you want to live a life of fullness, then part of that is a willingness to experience all of it—to experience love and to experience loss. And to understand that you don’t get either without the other.”

Sometimes writers write to give meaning to their lives. Take for example, Kent Haruf, author of Plainsong, which has sold more than a million copies and was a finalist for the National Book Award. He gave this account of why he worked on a novel until he was mere days away from dying. He was diagnosed with interstitial lung disease in February 2014 and felt “sick and very downhearted spiritually and mentally…And then in April, I began to feel a little better, and I thought,’Well, I don’t want to just sit around waiting.'”

He worked on some short stories but wasn’t making much headway. Then an idea for a novel occurred to him.

“In some ways it felt as if that was what was keeping me alive,” he said. “It was something significant for me to get up for every day.”

Haruf died in November 2014 at age 71, and his last novel, Our Souls at Night, will release on May 28. You can read the details of his writing habits (sitting blind-folded and hunched over a typewriter!), and the inspiration for Our Souls here. For Haruf, writing that novel gave his last months meaning. And he gave readers the gift of one more book from him.

Pulitzer Prize finalist and poet Elizabeth Alexander expressed her motivation for writing as “processing the world through art and word.” Writing clarifies our thinking and enables us to ponder what to make of the items life hands to us. It’s like turning a stone over and over in our hands while we consider its contortions, weight, texture, and colors. Then we let others peek over our shoulder at that rock so they can see it from our point of view.

“Art is a tunnel that gets you from one place to another.” That’s the reason Mateen, a 12th-grade student at the Baltimore School for the Arts, gave during a television interview for pursuing his great love, playing the bassoon.

Mateen beautifully and simply expressed what music,  painting, photography, writing, or any art form can accomplish in the person creating a piece and in the individuals who ponder that work. It moves us–from one emotion to another, from one way of thinking to another, from one perception of life to another.

And that’s ultimately a pretty wonderful reason to write.

What moves you to write? What piece of art have you read or viewed that “tunneled” you from one place to another?

TWEETABLES

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Image courtesy of sattva at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Plotting to Save Writing Time http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/plotting-to-save-writing-time-evergreen/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/plotting-to-save-writing-time-evergreen/#comments Fri, 15 May 2015 14:29:01 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=23787 Blogger: Michelle Ule

Filling in for Rachel Kent today.

After two years of work writing a novel, I’ve finally finished and am plotting the next one. I’ve completed most of the research (this is the project interrupted by World War …

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Blogger: Michelle Ule

Filling in for Rachel Kent today.

After two years of work writing a novel, I’ve finally finished and am plotting the next one. I’ve completed most of the research (this is the project interrupted by World War I), but the plot points have changed over the two-year hiatus.

I’ve been looking at my calendar and hoping I’m not going to take another two years to write a novel.

I type fast; but is there a way to use my writing hours better?

Recently, I came upon a blog post that intrigued me by both the concept and title, as a way to save time.

What do you think of the possibilities in this lengthy post by novelist Rachel Aaron?

How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day

I haven’t tried this yet, but the article is very interesting and full of wise advice.

Basically, it boils down to plotting like crazy BEFORE you write rather than after. Aaron contends that if you have at least an outline of what you want to accomplish in a scene before you start, you can write much faster than if you’re trying to sort it out while you’re creating.

For “seat of the pants” writers this may seem stifling. They like to find out what is happening in their story while they’re writing it, allowing the characters to dictate action as it unfolds.

There’s nothing wrong for this type of writing style, per se, but you can wander off onto some rabbit trails if you’re following your characters’ leads.

Which means, you may have to go back to earlier passages and rewrite things that don’t fit into where the character ended up.

The opposite end, of course, is the detailed plotter, who has everything figured out before they start and it’s just a matter of writing down the words. Mystery writers, in particular, really have to be detailed plotters for their stories to make sense.

I’m not a detailed writer myself. I prefer the “picture frame” method, wherein I sketch out the story line. I know where we begin, where we end, and major scenes along the way. novella plot

When plotting, I draw a diagram or matrix showing what should happen when. I pay attention to how many chapters I have, the length of the chapters (trying to keep them about the same length to smooth out the rhythm for the reader) and calculate where major plot twists should occur.

Once I start writing, however, I’m open to the characters leading me into different places than my plot for their own purposes.

They often take me up on it.

But I can write much faster if I know what I want to accomplish in a given scene and historically for me, those scenes rarely need to be rewritten.

That can be important, especially if I’m on a deadline.

How about you? How do you plan out your writing projects?

Are you a plotter, seat of the pantser, or a picture framer?

Tweetables

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Sensitivity at Conferences http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/sensitivity-at-conferences/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/sensitivity-at-conferences/#comments Thu, 14 May 2015 07:01:47 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=24547 Blogger: Mary Keeley

Today’s topic is an extension of Rachelle Gardner’s post yesterday on etiquette but focuses specifically on sensitivity at conferences. Prepare for mental overload as you take in workshops, general sessions, and meetings with agents and editors, but …

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Blogger: Mary Keeley

Today’s topic is an extension of Rachelle Gardner’s post yesterday on etiquette but focuses specifically on sensitivity at conferences. Prepare for mental overload as you take in workshops, general sessions, and meetings with agents and editors, but be ready to give back too.

Writers conferences are great venues for reconnecting with New writerwriter friends and others you’ve met online but not in person. Critique partners often attend the same conference so they can learn and encourage each other and spend time together during free times and meals. Agents and editors look forward to connecting with each other too. Collectively, as our minds race to get where we need to go and make the most out of your conference experience, we often don’t notice the person next to us who is in need of a warm greeting and hopes of gaining friendships in the Christian writing community.

Last year when I blogged on this reminder for all of us, I told of a dear friend who attended a conference by herself. She decided to start a new table at lunch and let God choose her tablemates at the table for ten. Nine people who belonged to the same writers group took the remaining seats. She commented that she couldn’t break into their conversation no matter how she tried. The one time someone initiated conversation with her was to ask her to take their picture. She understood it wasn’t personal, that they were just enjoying being together. She also felt God had a lesson in it for her. Having experienced this herself, my friend now looks for a person already sitting at a table, alone, and asks if she can join her. Giving back. She said it works well unless the person rushes to say, “Sorry, all these seats are saved,” without a second glance or even a smile. Again, nothing personal but it stings nonetheless and, unless your emotions are fortified with titanium, it is hard to resist feeling rejected, especially in an environment where creative people already are braced for rejection by agents and editors.

I have observed instances like these myself at conferences. And I’m quite sure I have unwittingly been guilty of not recognizing and initiating conversation with an introverted conferee or a first-time attendee who doesn’t know the ropes. Agents and editors sometimes host tables at lunch and dinner as part of our faculty role. It’s our opportunity and privilege to talk with each person who chooses to sit at our table and to give them our full attention as they describe their WIP.

I watched sensitivity at work during the Oregon Christian Writers Conference a few years ago. A writer who was sitting at the snack station with friends noticed a very young girl sitting at another table by herself. Had the writer not approached this shy teenager, we might never have learned her story. The girl had just graduated from high school and travelled, alone, from her home in Alaska to attend the conference. Her passion and determination to become an author was so great that she was an inspiration to many other conferees and faculty. She gathered a community of writer friends she could stay in touch with from Alaska. Blessings back and forth.

Together as faculty and conferees, let’s be watchful to balance our time with friends and moments when we can exercise sensitivity at conferences.

Can you think of additional instances when you put your conference sensibilities to good service? When have you felt like an outsider at a writer event? What happened when you spoke to someone new to you at a conference? At what other venues can you reach out to new writers?

TWEET:

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Manners Matter: 15 Etiquette Tips http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/etiquette-tips/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/etiquette-tips/#comments Wed, 13 May 2015 05:00:24 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=24531 Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

Professional situations can be awkward, and sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what kind of etiquette is required. We are all busy, and it can be tempting to rush through our days with little concern for niceties. …

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Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

Professional situations can be awkward, and sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what kind of etiquette is required. We are all busy, and it can be tempting to rush through our days with little concern for niceties. But life and business are so much more enjoyable when we pay attention to good manners. Here are some tips I’ve gleaned, meant as simple reminders of the common courtesies that can make our days more pleasant.

1. Send thank you notes.

It’s easy to overlook notes in this electronic age, and I confess I have a hard time with this. But enough people have told me what a big impression thank you notes make — and what a BIGGER impression the lack of a thank you note makes — that I’m convinced it’s still the most courteous thing to do. If a handwritten note is truly beyond your skill-set, at the very least you could send a nice note via email or Facebook. Texting is probably not going to cut it (unless you’re thanking someone for their thank-you note!)

2. Avoid discussing publisher or agent problems in a public forum such as Facebook.

It can be tempting to vent, but the way to actually solve problems is to go directly to the parties involved.

place setting3. Speak positively about others.

It’s not enough to simply avoid speaking negatively about others. I think it actually makes YOU look good if you praise others, giving credit where credit is due or simply admiring someone’s work. Whenever you have the opportunity to speak about a person who is not present, make it something good if at all possible.

4. Greet people with a handshake in professional situations.

Sometimes there’s that awkward moment when you’re not sure whether to shake hands. This is especially true in our business where many of us have been friends and business acquaintances for so long that a hug feels more natural. If you are comfortable with a hug, that’s fine. But remember the handshake is still the professional greeting. When in doubt — put your hand out.

5. Pay attention to the person with whom you’re interacting.

Whether you’re meeting with someone in person or on the phone, pay attention to them, not to your electronic devices or computer, or other people passing by. It’s tempting to multi-task, but it’s much more valuable to focus.

6. Give people the benefit of the doubt.

People will often fail to live up to your expectations. People will hold different viewpoints from you. Try to remember that most people are doing the best they can with what they have, and give them grace.

7. Carefully consider your words, both written and verbal.

Before saying something, use the old method of asking yourself: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? Hopefully this will keep your interactions productive and you’ll avoid regret.

8. Be aware of generational differences in communication preference.

This is an extreme generalization, but it’s helpful: Baby-boomers tend to prefer the phone. Gen-x-ers go for email. Millennials gravitate toward texting. It never hurts to ask someone how they prefer to communicate. Luckily, most business people are now comfortable with all known forms of communication, but they may still have a preference.

9. Don’t interrupt.

Just today, I was standing in a hallway having a conversation with a business associate, when another person approached and said, “Do you mind if I ask you a business question?” with apparently no awareness that they were interrupting. I think this is usually self-absorption more than anything else. Pay attention to others, wait your turn to speak, and avoid interrupting.

10. Listen for understanding.

When you’re in a conversation, listen carefully and work to understand what is being said—as opposed to simply formulating your own reply in your mind long before the other person is finished speaking. Being a great listener is a key to success in all communication.

11. Don’t let email completely replace voice contact.

While it’s important to be aware of how others prefer to communicate, try not to let business relationships be “email only.” A well-timed phone call every now and then can smooth over a multitude of rough patches. But also…

12. Be sensitive to people’s time on the phone.

While some conversations require a sizable chunk of time, I generally recommend either planning on a 30-minute maximum, or clarifying ahead of time what length of time has been slotted for the call.

13. In email, remember: Bottom line up front (BLUF).

Don’t ramble. Even if you need to explain something at length, you should still put the most important point or question right up top.

14. Keep email subject lines current.

If you are hitting “Reply” but the subject of the email stream has changed, update the subject line to reflect the current content. Otherwise, people won’t be able to find and identify the email if they’re looking for it later.

15. Double check your email before hitting SEND.

We’ve all had nightmares of sending an email to the wrong person… or sending a “venting” email that nobody should have seen. To avoid this, here’s my trick: Whenever you’re composing a sensitive email, FIRST delete the names in the “To” field. That way, you can’t accidentally send it. Once you’ve decided the note is suitable for sending, you can add the “To” names back in.

 

Do you think etiquette is important? What are some etiquette rules you WISH people would follow?

 

TWEETABLES

Send thank you notes, shake hands, don’t interrupt – and more etiquette tips. Click to Tweet.

Because good manners make life more pleasant for everyone… Click to Tweet.

 

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Brilliant Description http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/brilliant-description/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/brilliant-description/#comments Tue, 12 May 2015 08:00:09 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=24537 Blogger: Wendy Lawton

When I open a fiction manuscript nothing gives away the skill level of the writer more quickly than the writer’s use of description. The novice tends to fall in love with description, offering it generously and effusively. …

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Blogger: Wendy Lawton

When I open a fiction manuscript nothing gives away the skill level of the writer more quickly than the writer’s use of description. The novice tends to fall in love with description, offering it generously and effusively. Titian tresses and emerald eyes often feature prominently. Every minute detail is painstakingly described from the brass doorknob touched by the delicate hand to a wall-to-wall description of the ornate room.

So what’s wrong with that? Doesn’t it help paint a picture?

Here’s what’s wrong:

  • Description should be offered from the point of view of a particular character, not from the point of view of the author. If the point of view is our hero, for instance– a man’s man– he better not be describing the fabric of a dress, unless he is a tailor, or the kind of flower in the vase, unless he is a botanist.
  • The description and the specifics that are noticed should tell us something about the character who is noticing. Description is a tool, a clue to understanding the character.
  • Yes, description can set the stage and paint a picture but the skillful writer knows how to sketch a rich scene with just a few strokes of the pen. If the writer over-describes he doesn’t allow room for the reader to create the setting in his own imagination. It’s the scene the reader conjures from his own images and memories that will make the book come alive for him.
  • If the writer draws the reader’s eye to something, that reader has a right to expect that object to figure into the story in a significant way. If I point out the regimental sword on the wall, it should either tell me something about the character who put it there or be found, bloodied, beside a body later in the book.

american-book-cover4I recently discovered a new-to-me author, Louise Penny, who takes description to a whole new level. Since picking up her first Inspector Gamache book, Still Life, I’ve eagerly read through her entire back list and have pre-ordered her book due out this August. She’s relatively new– ten books in ten years, I believe– but is already a New York Times #1 bestselling author with her books receiving multiple awards and starred reviews. No wonder. The Richmond Times-Dispatch said it best: “An eternally lovely and deeply affecting series. . . that transcends the genre and works, as worthy literature should, on multiple levels. . . A treat for the mind and a lesson for the soul.”

Here’s just one example of how she makes description work on more than one level. She’s describing a recurring main character in the series:

At thirty-five years old, Jean Guy Beauvoir had been Gamache’s second in command for more than a decade. He wore cords and a wool sweater under his leather jacket. A scarf was rakishly and apparently randomly whisked around his neck. It was a look of studied nonchalance which suited his toned body but was easily contradicted by the cord-tight tension of his stance. Jean Guy Beauvoir was loosely wrapped but tightly wound.

Brilliant description, right? If you wish to learn how a master handles description, I’d highly recommend studying Louise Penny.

So how about you? Do you have an example of brilliant description, either from your own work or a favorite author’s work? What are some other things that can be accomplished by using description like a pro? What do amateurs do that sets your teeth on edge?

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3 Wrong Assumptions about Agents http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/3-wrong-assumptions-about-agents/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/3-wrong-assumptions-about-agents/#comments Mon, 11 May 2015 00:22:50 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=24518 Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

Agents long have known that clients wish an agent had only one client–that writer. But the truth of the matter is that the agent must sustain a healthy list of clients to make a living. Unless …

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Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

Agents long have known that clients wish an agent had only one client–that writer. But the truth of the matter is that the agent must sustain a healthy list of clients to make a living. Unless your agent happens to represent the likes of Nora Roberts and Nicholas Sparks, the reality is said agent is juggling many authors’ careers simultaneously. Still, clients can be prone to have an image of the agent lounging about, taking naps, or running out for a Starbucks to break the mid-afternoon monotony.

Just in case you had a picture of that sort in your head, let me offer three wrong assumptions about agents.

1. Your agent isn’t sitting with his feet up on the desk waiting for you to send him your proposal/manuscript.man with feet on desk

Your agent is more likely to have a running list of clients’ proposal and manuscripts that need to be worked on or read. Not every agent performs these tasks, but we do at Books & Such. We don’t receive a client’s proposal, pop our contact info on it, and dash it off to a trillion-and-a-half editors. Instead, we meticulously comb through your material, always with an eye to whether it’s ready to showcase. If not, we’ll either reconfigure it to highlight the strong aspects and shade the less compelling ones, or we’ll send it back to you, with feedback and a request you take another look. Either way, we pour time into the document. We understand there’s only one opportunity to get a yes, and we want everything in tip-top shape when we ask a publisher, “Wouldn’t you like to offer a contract for this work?”

That means we will not:

  • Send it out the day we receive it
  • Read it the minute it arrives
  • Assume it’s fabulous and email it out unviewed

2. Your agent isn’t charmed when you decide to do your proposal your way.
Our agency created a template for our proposals so that, when editors receive one from us, they know what the format will be and where to look to find certain information. We want our proposals to be easy to quickly look over for key information, and also to say, “Hey, this is from Books & Such. They send stuff that’s ready to be published.” We want to bank on our reputation, even through subtle aspects of a submission such as a uniform look.

If a client decides a creative idea deserves a creative look, unless the agent has agreed to such a plan ahead of time, please don’t surprise your agent this way.

Also, if said agent looks over your proposal and tells you ways in which it needs to be dressed up, use the revised proposal the agent sends you. He or she probably has spent a number of hours changing passive sentences into active ones; rearranging your bio to put the most relevant items at the beginning; making sure the hook and project description are top-notch, etc.

If your agent asks you to make your changes using track changes, don’t decide to rewrite the manuscript sans track changes. Recently I spent an additional four hours on a proposal because a client did just that.

3. Your agent doesn’t live for the day you send her 15 long emails.
Sometimes communication is intense between an agent and client. This past week I exchanged a raft full of emails with a client as we discussed how the direction for her cover went from strong to having no relation to the novel. We eventually added the editor into our communication, which multiplied the emails.

But other times a client, often in the middle of the night, decides his career is going down the tubes. While everyone else blissfully snoozes through the wee morning hours, the client is tapping out long, panicked emails to his agent.

How much more productive to wait until the agent’s office opens in the morning, email the agent and ask if she is available for a phone call, and set up a time to talk about the crisis. The agent is likely to shed light on the situation and help the author to see publishing and career realities from a different perspective.

We sometimes get stuck in writing emails back and forth when it would make communication clearer and more efficient if a phone call took place. But, when emails are the norm, we don’t always break free from that modus operandi.

Now that I’ve hopefully shed a bit of light on how we at Books & Such work, I’d like to hear from you: What wrong assumptions do you think agents have about clients? about writers?

TWEETABLES

3 wrong assumptions about literary agents. Click to tweet.

An inside look at a literary agent’s day. Click to tweet.

What literary agents wish writers knew. Click to tweet.

 

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