Waiting for an Agent or Editor to Respond? Get Busy!

The dog days of August can be the most frustrating for a writer because it’s next to impossible to get the attention of an agent or, if a proposal is on submission, an editor. Rather than drive yourself crazy waiting for a response to your e-mail or snail mail, here’s what to do with yourself:

 

1.   Be patient and don’t nudge. If you push an agent or editor for a response, you predispose that person to look for reasons to reject it. Agents and editors hate feeling pressured, and it’s always easier to say no than it is to say yes. Don’t prejudice them against your project. Focus instead on getting someone else’s interest and making your book an even hotter property. Light a fire under the pokey agent by sending it to other agents, or have your agent submit it to other editors. That way, you may be able to send them the message, “I have interest from someone else so please let me know whether you are interested as well.” That is much more likely to get them excited than the message a nudge note really sends: “Can you please get back to me? I’m feeling sad and anxious because no one has expressed interest in my project yet”!

 

2.   Build your platform. You could twiddle your thumbs, agonize, vent to your fellow writers, your partner, and your pet, or call a psychic to get her take on your proposal’s prospects, but here are some more practical ways to spend your time right now. All will improve your chances of getting an agent and book deal:

 

–Offer to be a guest blogger on a popular blog.

–Write more blog pieces. Tease them on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

–Write a free “service” article (how to do such-and-such, 7 tips for such-and-such) and submit it to a free articles Web site.

–Comment on major blogs and include your URL.

–Do some Tweets or Facebook posts. Drive people to your Web site and make sure your site encourages them to give you their e-mail address so you can someday send them notice of your book’s publication.

–Get bookings on radio shows (traditional or online shows are always looking for guests). Doing live radio is an art so you might as well start practicing it now. Again, drive people to your site and/or Facebook page or Twitter account.

–Set up some speaking engagements.

–Make some informational videos and post them online and on your website.  Tweet about them and feature them on your Facebook page, and announce them on LinkedIn.

–Learn more about other forms of social media that are becoming more popular and start thinking about whether you might benefit from investing time in using them.

–Do a social media campaign to boost your number of followers.

Remember, if you get a publicity break, or suddenly have a big uptick in followers, you can send a nice note to the agent or editor saying, “I just thought I’d let you know that I’ll be on MSNBC tomorrow/have a blog piece on Psychology Today this week/got 2000 new Twitter followers/stripped for Playboy magazine to build my “healthy body” brand.” Think of all the many ways you can draw attention to your brand at this critical point. (I’m not kidding about the centerfold: When I was an in-house editor, one of my authors, who wrote guides to improving intimacy, appeared in a major men’s magazine half-clothed, the month of our annual sales conference. That certainly woke up the sales force! My authors with similar books in the pipeline were intrigued by this bold move, but decided on other means for self-promotion!)

 
Envision the sale. Imagine that you have gotten the call from the agent or editor saying, “This is the greatest thing EVER!” Visualize every moment of that call…yourself on a major national television show talking about it as the host stares at you, enraptured…your book’s title on the top of the New York Times bestseller list…you speaking to an audience of aspiring authors, telling your story about how you, too, thought at one point that there was no hope but then the call came and now look at you. Don’t feel embarrassed by this exercise. Many successful authors have envisioned their success and infused their fantasy with the emotions so that it felt real, only to have that success play out in reality.

 

 

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Getting Started on a Memoir, Novelization, or Self-Help Book Based on Your Experiences

Many people contact me about help with writing a book based on what they’ve learned as a result of their experiences. They want to help others by sharing their story, wisdom, and advice in a book but don’t know how to get started.

Now, I am all for writing your book  solely for the sake of catharsis and self-expression, and I think more people who are in a healing process should write about their experiences. That said, writing for an audience that has its own needs is different from writing for yourself. Don’t confuse the two. Your needs and desires have value, but they are not always the same as a reader’s needs and desires.

Maybe you already are certain that you want to write a self-help book and weave your story, and other stories, into the book and use it as a sort of credibility card for your work but also as a key tool for your clients and followers. Maybe you feel strongly that a memoir is the best way to get your story out there and inspire and educate others.  If you’d rather not use real names, or you would like to explore what might have happened instead of just what did happen, you can think about turning your story into a novel. You can also consider writing a book of life lessons, with advice based on your story, and don’t offer any specific advice to readers.

If you’re struggling to conceptualize your book, here are some tips.

* Write. Notice I didn’t say “write your book.” Some people free write until they reach hundreds of pages of material and there’s nothing wrong with doing that, but it’s easy to get attached to what you’ve written, and what’s on the page may not work as the basis of your book. Start small. Write a blogpiece, a scene, or a chapter. Play around with it: Write it in first person, then second, then third. Write it as fiction or as a memoir, or as an anecdote illustrating a point, like you would find in a self-help book. Explore your story and your message from various angles to get a feel for how you want to tell it.

* Look at your goals. What audience would you like to reach, and why? What other types of books are they reading? Where do they hear about those books? Do they buy books based on advertisements, word-of-mouth recommendations, Facebook posts, bookstore displays–what is the main way of reaching them? Why do they trust the authors of those books? Are they drawn in by the power of the author’s personal story? Are they impressed by the author’s work as a therapist or coach? These are the kinds of questions that will help you to put yourself in the shoes of your potential reader and know how to write for that individual and how to get him or her to know about your book. You’ve thought about what you want to write. Now think about who wants to read it.

* Look at comparative books. Know what other books and information are out there. What is your fresh idea, take, or spin? If you know you want to write a self-help book on a particular topic, be aware that your idea probably isn’t completely unique but that’s okay. Give it your own take.

* Check in with your gut. Does it feel right to do a memoir, or even a novelization, of your story? Do you want to share life lessons, or give advice? Do you want to create exercises that will help the reader to learn what you learned, only in a more pleasant way? Get in touch with your instincts about the book you are meant to write–and think about whether you might be meant to write more than one book!

 

How do you get started writing your story?

* Consider collaborating or procuring a foreword. I knew I wanted to write a practical guide for parents whose children had sensory processing disorder because it was incredibly difficult to access that information back when my son who has SPD was two years old and newly diagnosed. There were NO practical books that could help me figure out how to brush his teeth or calm him when he was having a sudden tantrum. I teamed up with my son’s occupational therapist, who was not only treating him for SPD but who had also done some writing herself, to create Raising a Sensory Smart Child, a book that offered two valuable perspectives and appealed to parents and professionals. If you’re thinking you don’t have the right credentials to write your self-help book, find someone to team up with as a collaborator, or ask this person to write a valuable foreword for your book. I ended up with both a collaborator and a foreword writer with an important name in the special needs community (Temple Grandin).

* Start your outreach now. Begin building your author platform. Get a Facebook page and a blog if you’re going to create a memoir or a nonfiction book. If you want to write a novel, start writing regularly and working with a writer’s group to receive and give feedback and support (your fellow writers may well become your loyal readers!). If you’re blogging or on Facebook, ask your followers for feedback. Ask them questions to get them involved in a conversation, and respond to their answers. Encourage them to subscribe to your blog, like your page, and give you their email addresses so you can contact them in the future (you should offer a free gift, or a just a promise to send them information but never to sell their email address to anyone). Think about building a community of followers who talk among themselves and to you about your topic. These followers will not only buy your book when it’s ready, but they will also spread the word about the book or any other products or services you want to promote–not because you pay them but because they believe in you and your work and message.

* Make a habit of learning a little more every week. Notice I didn’t say make this a goal: I said make this a HABIT. Every week, schedule time to learn more about your topic and your audience and more about using social media, creating webinars and teleseminars, marketing, doing workshops and lectures, and getting the word out. If you don’t make time to do it, you will become overwhelmed by all there is to learn once your book is actually written. Set some boundaries so you don’t get sucked in to using social media so often that you don’t get any writing done–it can be addictive!

* Talk to a book publishing consultant or developmental editor early on in the process. It can be invaluable to toss ideas around with a knowledgeable publishing insider. It’s energizing to have a clear picture of your overall strategy and clarity about what you can do write now to get started creating your book. If you are going to contact me, do give me some details about your book project and whether you’re leaning toward self-publishing or building your platform then aiming to get a book deal. We can schedule a brainstorming session and focus in on your brand, your plan, and your action steps for getting closer to your goal right now. Email me at Nancy at nancypeske dot com and check out the services page on my website, www.nancypeske.com.

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How to Write a Self-Help Book, Part 1: Structuring

Many people have enjoyed reading self-help books but when it comes to writing one, they don’t know where to begin. How do you organize the material?

A great self-help book takes the reader on a journey from problem to solution. Watch this new video I made about how to structure a self-help book into six key sections, then take out your favorite self-help book and look at the contents page. Does it have the structure I’ve outlined here? Does it have a variation it? It never ceases to amaze me how often this structure is used and yet no one talks about it!

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3k0Qq8UC3JI

 

 

 

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How Will a Ghostwriter Capture My Voice?

One of the main reasons people resist hiring a ghostwriter for their book is the fear that the ghostwriter will not capture their voice, and the book will sound as if it’s been written by someone else.

 

To capture your voice, the ghostwriter needs to understand two important rules about writing your book for you:

 

Rule #1: A voice on the page is not the same as a person’s spoken voice. Back when I was studying English linguistics in college, I had to do a paper analyzing an actual conversation that I’d tape recorded and explain why the speakers were able to drop certain words or make certain grammatical errors without confusing the listener. When I transcribed the conversation word for word, “um” for “um,” with all the half-expressed thoughts in place, the result was a document few people could make sense of, and yet the actual conversation had proceeded smoothly. If you’ve ever had your speaking transcribed word for word, you may have been horrifed by how often you interrupted yourself, changed directions, or spoke ungrammatically. A ghostwriter will create a voice on the page that captures the essence of your personality and how you express yourself, but this will be the voice you would write with if you were your English teacher’s dream student and you and plenty of time to craft your sentences and paragraphs.

 

Rule #2: Your voice on the page should not sound uptight and stiff. An excellent ghostwriter will stick to the rules of grammar without making you sound tightly wound. Read a few pages of a biography of a favorite celebrity or two. Does it sound as if the celebrity wrote those words? Or has this rock star written about an “ameliorating effect” or a “problem with which I wrestled”? The ghostwriter and, later, the copyeditor are responsible for retaining the voice of the expert or celebrity whose name is on the book.

 

A ghostwriter will look at any material you’ve written in the past and talk to you about the voice. It may be that you basically like how you sound in your blogpieces but want to be sure your voice sounds energetic and commercial throughout your book. In that case, the ghostwriter can look carefully at the elements of your voice in those blogpieces and make sure to retain your catchphrases and rhythms.

 

If you’re ever unhappy with what a ghostwriter has written for you, even if it’s just a simple word choice, speak up! It’s important that you feel comfortable with the voice your ghostwriter creates for you.

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How Will a Ghostwriter Capture My Voice?

One of the main reasons people resist hiring a ghostwriter for their book is the fear that the ghostwriter will not capture their voice, and the book will sound as if it’s been written by someone else.

 

To capture your voice, the ghostwriter needs to understand two important rules about writing your book for you:

 

Rule #1: A voice on the page is not the same as a person’s spoken voice. Back when I was studying English linguistics in college, I had to do a paper analyzing an actual conversation that I’d tape recorded and explain why the speakers were able to drop certain words or make certain grammatical errors without confusing the listener. When I transcribed the conversation word for word, “um” for “um,” with all the half-expressed thoughts in place, the result was a document few people could make sense of, and yet the actual conversation had proceeded smoothly. If you’ve ever had your speaking transcribed word for word, you may have been horrifed by how often you interrupted yourself, changed directions, or spoke ungrammatically. A ghostwriter will create a voice on the page that captures the essence of your personality and how you express yourself, but this will be the voice you would write with if you were your English teacher’s dream student and you and plenty of time to craft your sentences and paragraphs.

 

Rule #2: Your voice on the page should not sound uptight and stiff. An excellent ghostwriter will stick to the rules of grammar without making you sound tightly wound. Read a few pages of a biography of a favorite celebrity or two. Does it sound as if the celebrity wrote those words? Or has this rock star written about an “ameliorating effect” or a “problem with which I wrestled”? The ghostwriter and, later, the copyeditor are responsible for retaining the voice of the expert or celebrity whose name is on the book.

 

A ghostwriter will look at any material you’ve written in the past and talk to you about the voice. It may be that you basically like how you sound in your blogpieces but want to be sure your voice sounds energetic and commercial throughout your book. In that case, the ghostwriter can look carefully at the elements of your voice in those blogpieces and make sure to retain your catchphrases and rhythms.

 

If you’re ever unhappy with what a ghostwriter has written for you, even if it’s just a simple word choice, speak up! It’s important that you feel comfortable with the voice your ghostwriter creates for you.

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Ghost Writer For Hire: Help Writing Your Book

One of my hats is ghostwriting, and I just made a little promotional video about this service. (For those of you thinking of creating videos of your own to promote your work, I made this using iMovie software, stock photographs, and royalty free music, for under $20: check out www.FootageFirm.com for music and video clips, and www.istockphoto.com and www.bigstockphoto.com for photographs. I began with a script, looked for photographs to illustrate my core ideas, and found appropriate music from my collection.).

Ghostwriting is a skill that requires you to be attuned to your client’s voice. When I ghostwrite, I fuss over transition words (would that client say “then too” or “moreover”?), adjectives, sentence structure, first- versus second- or third-person, and the rhythms of a person’s spoken voice. I read samples of their past writing and talk to them about what they liked or didn’t like about their voice in those samples. I have no defensiveness when they tweak my writing, and I encourage them to tell me, “I wouldn’t use that word” (oops, my bad!) or “I wouldn’t say it quite that way; there’s a nuance I have to explain to you.” I remember one client telling me years ago, “I am gentle with my readers because they have a great deal of embarrassment about their situations, so I never say ‘You should’ or start a sentence with ‘Don’t.'” Wow, was that helpful feedback!

 

I think that to be a good ghostwriter, you have to have a firm grasp of voice in your own writing.

 

Who is your audience, and how would you like them to perceive you? Voice should reflect the relationship you want to create between you, the writer, and your reader. It is not simply about what you want to say and how you want to say it. As a developmental editor, I’ve been known to point out places in an author’s book where I think his tone is a little off and needs to be tempered. I know some people think that if you write books using your own voice, you can’t successfully switch over to writing in someone else’s voice. This simply isn’t true. It’s really a matter of setting aside your ego and tuning in to the other person’s energy, personality, and styles of speaking and writing.

One of the advantages of having me ghostwrite their books, my clients have discovered, is that when they are suddenly asked to write something short-form on a deadline, I can jump in easily to do it for them, not just because I know their ideas and material but because I know how they like to sound on the page or screen. For a busy professional running workshops and seminars, having a ghostwriter available can be an incredible asset even after the book is written. Jumping in to that role when you don’t know a person and his voice well is much harder, I am sure!

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Book publishing tips, the editorial process, and more on Let’s Talk About Books

Did you miss Let’s Talk About Books today? I addressed:

–getting over the perfectionism that keeps you futzing endlessly, and why this will trip you up

–why you should NOT try to get instant feedback on what you’ve written

–the stages of book production in a traditional publisher: How many changes can you make before “it’s a wrap”?

–using YouTube in your publicity efforts and to sell yourself to TV producers

–why you don’t have to be a celebrity or have a huge platform to sell a book these days

And more!

You can listen to the archive at LET’S TALK ABOUT BOOKS on Blogtalk Radio at any time; it runs 30 min.

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