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Posts tagged with: submission tips

SELLING 101- Blurbs

Your book is written, polished and edited. Now comes the moment when you need to hook an agent, editor or buyers on your book in a few short lines.  After spending months writing your story, you might be knocking your head against the wall trying to decide how to condense everything wonderful about your work into what, approximately one-hundred words.

You’re not alone.

Writing blurbs commands a different mindset. Instead of adding layers we need to get out the filet knife and cut away all the fat and end up with the juiciest part of our stories, because that is what the readers really want know about. Those juicy tidbits are what makes them buy your book. But how do you whittle down to the wonderful stuff? I’ll share my process.

I write romance, so I begin with a one-line story premise and then the GMC of both my heroine and hero—or as I like to refer this portion, my characters’ mini-bios.

Here is how I began to write my blurb for my new release PERFECT HEARTS which is the second book in my Perfect Love series.

Fourteen years ago, two geeky teens became best friends and their romance was sabotaged by the town’s diva sending them on different paths. 

Carrie returns to Black Moose, Vermont to emerge from the shadows of her parents’ stardom and find a normal life, love, and family, but the ratio of female versus eligible bachelors (under the age of thirty-five) is like 50 to 1.

Luke McQuire is a man with two things on his mind: building his electrical business and evading the town diva, Olive Ann, who has made it known to all the women on the mountain that he is her future husband.

After I’ve that step is completed, then comes the slicing and dicing to make the blurb entertaining, because fiction books are entertainment. And we have to add back in our voices. So the next step is to add that hook—that wonderful first line that will draw the reader in and make them want to read more.

Back to PERFECT HEARTS:

Block-buster movies picture it. Platinum records are composed based on it. Stories and poems are written because of it. Every breathing soul searches for it, including Carrie Shultz. Good grief, her livelihood depends on love.

 

But like all first lines they need to be tweaked and reworked and sometimes scrubbed. So we work some more. And we tweak our characters mini-bios again, adding in interesting story details and hooks.

Blockbuster movies show it, platinum records praise it, great literature lauds it…every living soul searches for it. Good grief, Carrie Twines’ livelihood depends on it. Everyone in Black Moose, Vermont seems to be in love or in hot pursuit of it. Their bliss only reminds Carrie of what she lost as a teen when two geeky best friends became first loves—until heartache sent them on different paths.

Carrie returns to Black Moose, Vermont to emerge from the shadows of her parents’ stardom and find a normal life, love, and family, but the odds are stacked against her. However, her luck is about to change. As she contemplates the merits of becoming a spinster, a game of chance brings her back to the man she’d walked away from years ago.

Luke McQuire is a man with two things on his mind: building his electrical business and evading the town diva, Olive Ann. But when Carrie shows up again like a lucky penny, he’s got more to think about—including why she left him in the first place.

And again, we cut, we add and we polish until the finish blurb seems perfect.

Blockbuster Movies show it, Platinum Records praise it, great literature lauds it…every living soul searches for it. Good grief, Carrie Twines’ livelihood depends on it. Everyone in Black Moose, Vermont seems to be in love or in hot pursuit of it. Their bliss only reminds Carrie of what she lost as a teen when two geeky best friends became first loves—until heartache sent them on different paths.

Carrie returns to Black Moose to emerge from the shadows of her parents’ stardom and find a normal life, love and family, but the odds are stacked against her. However, her luck is about to change. As she contemplates the merits of spinsterhood, a game of chance brings her back to the man she’d walked away from years ago. He’s even more kind and sexy than he was fourteen years ago, but can she trust him with her heart again? Luke McQuire is a man with two things on his mind: building his electrical business and evading the town diva, Olive Ann. But when Carrie shows up again like a lucky penny, he’s got more to think about—including why she left him in the first place. He’s a damn good electrician, but can he make sparks fly with the one woman he wants—the one woman who was able to resist him?

 

And from that polished back cover blurb I can pull a shorter blurb to be used in other advertising venues.

Blockbuster movies, platinum records, and great literature laud it. Every living soul searches for it. Carrie Twines’ livelihood depends on it. In Black Moose, Vermont, everyone seems to be in love. Their bliss reminds Carrie of what she lost as a teen when heartache sent first loves on different paths. However, a game of chance brings back the man she’d walked away from years ago. Luke’s even more kind and sexy than he was fourteen years ago, but can she trust him with her heart again?

 

I want to thank my Ruby-sisters Anne Marie Becker and Rita Henuber and my editor Pat Thomas for their help in brainstorming and tweaking with the final blurb. Sometimes we’re so close to our work we can’t see its best features, so it’s always a good idea to have a fresh set of eyes reviewing it.

That is my process for writing blurbs. Sisters and readers do you approach blurbs differently?   

Formatting 101

We all want to submit our best work, and when I was first starting out as a wet-behind-the-ears writer, that desire sometimes translated into hours spent agonizing over whether Times New Roman or Courier was the better font.  I searched and searched for a definitive formatting guide to tell me which typefaces were going to get me an automatic rejection.  Hopefully this guide (suggested by the marvelous and talented Jamie Michelle) will provide for fledgling authors the guidance I was seeking.  Formatting 101.

Step One: Read the Instructions! 

No matter which contest you are entering, which agent you are submitting to, or to which editor you’re sending off your masterpiece, odds are they have some kind of FAQs or Rules online which will tell you exactly what they are looking for.  For example, the Golden Heart’s are here, Samhain’s are here, and Harlequin’s are here.  That’s the place to start if that’s who you’re submitting to.

If your target doesn’t specify font size or spacing, then they are expecting you to know industry standard and use it, so the following tips are a guideline, but DO YOUR RESEARCH & FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS PROVIDED by whomever you are submitting to.  If they’ve taken the time to put them onto the interwebz, they want you to follow them.

Getting the Conference Appointment You REALLY Want

Conference horror stories. We’ve all heard a few, or more. Remember the one about the overly-eager writer who slipped her manuscript under the bathroom stall and interrupted a poor editor’s private time? Or was it an agent? I did a quick Internet search on writer+manuscript+conference+bathroom and got over 500,000 hits. Seems more than one writer has tried this way of getting noticed. Of course, there’s getting noticed, and then there’s GETTING NOTICED. Do you really want  your dream editor or agent associating your manuscript–that one you poured your blood, sweat, and tears into–with … bathroom functions?

Things we’ve learned since publishing

My critique partner, Elisabeth Naughton, signed me up to speak on a panel at the Emerald City Writer’s Conference near Portland, OR in October and the topic is…you guessed it, What I’ve Learned Since I’ve Published.  (In my case it’s sold, because my book doesn’t come out until April 2012.)

And it occurred to me that I’d love to hear what all the RUBY SISTERS have learned since they’ve sold and/or published.  So, I’ll start the ball rolling with one element and I hope everyone who has been down that publishing road will give the ball a little kick and add one thing they’ve learned that hasn’t been listed yet.

Mine:  FLEXIBILITY

I’ve learned that the published arena in a much bigger place, and I’m trying to please a whole lot more people, and to do that, I’ve got to be flexible.  About everything.  Title, cover, character names, the way a plot branches, etc.  Being flexible with your time is important because everyone moves at a different pace based on what else is going on in their schedules.  Flexibility extends to your marketing plan, your marketing budget, where your career goes after this contract is fulfilled and/or what you write next.

I’ve dealt with the title changes, the long waits, the altering marketing plans.  And while I’m still waiting for the edits, copy edits and cover changes to come, right now I live in what-comes-next village. 

With the two book contract complete and the option proposal written, I am in that phase of…now what?  It’s…an interesting place.  The freedom can make you a little giddy — but only for a while.  Then it gets a bit dicey.  Especially if what you want to write isn’t what’s selling or something you don’t have the voice to master.  (There is a fantastic article on this topic written by literary agent Laura Bradford here.)  Or maybe you are venturing into a genre that your current agent doesn’t represent, maybe staying in a genre that is saturated and struggling to find a “different” or “fresh” angle or concept to develop.

I recently submitted a proposal to my agent for a paranormal romance.  It was rather different from what I write currently, which is a touch more romantic suspense with paranormal elements.  How is that for pushing around a genre to fit?  But the concept didn’t completely sit right with my agent.  Some aspects worked for her, but some didn’t.  She couldn’t envision how I would be able to make the premise unique enough to stand out from what had already been done.

Interestingly enough, I wasn’t crushed.  I think because my subconscious knew something wasn’t quite right, or maybe I wasn’t completely in love with it.  I don’t know, but I went back to the idea stage.  Pieces of this story had come from an idea I’d had a long time ago, something quite different–dark and gritty.  I took the original idea, fused it with some elements of the newer idea and of course, those two combined created elements unique to this book.  As I developed the book, I could see where it would open up into a series of related books.

Luckily, my agent really liked this version.  We talked over some issues she had, which if changed would make the idea stronger.  Once again, I altered the story and the characters, rewrote the synopsis and am waiting to hear back.

So, that’s just one of the big things I’ve learned since I’ve published…you’ve got to be all kinds of flexible.  Try things you never thought you’d try.  Think in ways you never thought you’d think.  Trust ideas you’d never thought you’d trust.

Think Gumby.

I can’t wait to hear what all of you have learned!!

Tell!  Tell!

First Impressions: What I Learned About Querying From OkCupid

About a year ago I saw a blog that cracked me up by the founders of OkCupid – a free online dating service.  Now, being a single girl working from home in an industry where ninety-five percent of the people I come into contact with are female… let’s just say I don’t scoff at unconventional methods of meeting your mate.  I rigged myself up an online profile and braced myself for love to come a’knockin – then promptly forgot about my OkCupid profile as I set off to get my travel fix on.

Last week I rediscovered my OkCupid profile and found a mess of messages waiting for a response from e-dating hopefuls.  I scrolled through them, giggling, groaning, and occasionally shooting back a reply with profuse apologies for the delay.  And in the process, I learned  a lot about first impressions.  And the writer’s first impression – the query letter.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Harlequin Category Decision Tree

If you’ve been wondering if your romance novel might fit into Harlequin’s super awesome universe of series romance, then you’ve come to the right place. Sure, sure; reading the the books themselves is the best way to get a feeling for what line might suit your style. But everyone could use a hand now and then, and I figured the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood is all about sharing knowledge, so why not spend all day making a decision tree that might be of interest to no one but me?

Judge me not, Ruby Friends. Everything I do, I do it for you.

Golden Heart: Last-Minute Prep Tips and Recipes for Success

This Thursday, your family’s probably expecting a turkey on the table. You can’t get away with, “Oops! Forgot to buy one!” or “Sorry, it’s still thawing in the fridge.” Come Thursday next, RWA has similar expectations for your Golden Heart entry: the actual pages must be in their Houston offices by 5:00 p.m. Central Time, no excuses accepted!!

In other words, it’s crunch time.

Maybe your entry has already been sent off (and maybe you’ve got all your Christmas shopping done), but for those of you still scrambling to finish, the Ruby Slippered Sisters have got your back.

We’ll be stopping by today with last-minute tips and advice on final polishing, squeezing the last drop of goodness out of the synopsis, handling the logistics of print-outs and mailing (and what to double-check so you won’t be disqualified!), checking to see if RWA got your entry, our own little rituals for good luck, and making the best use of your time after you get your entry sent off.

In the spirit of good luck for all, we’ll also be giving away $10 Barnes & Noble e-gift-certificates to three lucky commenters!

(For your convenience, the FORMATTING guidelines for Golden Heart follow after the jump.)

Writing a Dynamic Synopsis

Writing synopses can be a daunting task.  Distilling your entire manuscript into a few measly pages often feels like an impossible job, but the unfortunate truth of the matter is that synopses are necessary.  There’s just no avoiding them.  You need them for many contests, you need them for submissions to editors and agents, and as your career progresses they become the basis on which you sell books you’ve not yet written.  So there’s no time like the present to get comfortable writing them. They don’t have to be perfect, but they do have to be coherent.

I think of the synopsis as me sitting down and walking a friend through the story. You hit the high points, tell it in the voice of the book, and limit yourself to the details that are essential to the plot.  Easy, right?  Ha.  It’s never as simple as that in practice, is it?

Here are a few pitfalls to avoid:

First Page Reads – What Agents and Editors Really Think

Recently I had the pleasure of sitting in a session of first page reads, hearing feedback (i.e. their actual thoughts as if we weren’t in the room) from agents and editors as pages were read to them. I’ve done this several times over the past few years, and though it’s one of the more brutal things to sit through (whether it’s your work being read or someone else’s), I’m always grateful for the time these industry professional give to do this, as so much can be learned from this one experience.

Q&A with Sr. Editor Wanda Ottewell

Happy Monday, all (is that an oxymoron?)

Welcome to the Q&A with Harlequin Superromance editor Wanda Ottewell. I won’t spend too much time doing a lengthy introduction because I know you want to get right to the questions. But first we must have a snippet of bio:

Wanda Ottewell “fell” into publishing right out of college, starting out with a non-fiction publisher. Eventually she found herself working for Harlequin and has never looked back.

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