I want to offer a big Thank You to my blog followers for sticking with me through the years. You have my special gratitude if you’ve left comments, liked a post, tweeted one or shared it on Facebook. I’m especially touched when you come up to me at a conference and mention that you appreciate my blog. I send these messages out into cyberspace without knowing if anyone reads them. So it’s most gratifying to get any kind of feedback.
As a gift to you in return, I’d like to offer you the chance to win a $15 Fandango gift card, so you can see one of the latest movies. All you have to do is comment below and your name will be entered. The drawing will take place in two days.
In your comment, let me know, if you wish, what you like about this blog, what you dislike, or what kinds of articles you’d like to see more of in the future.
Meanwhile, have a safe, happy, and healthy New Year!
Do you dread writing a synopsis? If so, get used to it, because this tool is essential to your career as a writer. Not only is a synopsis necessary for a book proposal, but the sales force at your publishing house may use it to design your cover or to plan marketing materials for your book.
A synopsis is a complete narrative of your story told in present tense. A synopsis should include essential plot points plus your character’s emotional reactions. It can act as a writing guideline while not being so rigid that your story can’t change. When you finish the actual writing portion, you can return to the original synopsis and revise it to suit the finished storyline. So how should you proceed?
1. Consider adding a tag line (i.e. one liner story blurb) on your first page before the story begins.
2. Open with a hook.
3. Use action verbs. Your story should be engaging as you convey it to the reader.
4. Make sure the story flows in a logical manner from scene to scene. In a mystery, present the crime, the suspects, and their secrets. Then show how the sleuth uncovers their hidden agendas and unravels the clues.
5. Avoid backstory. Stick to present tense and keep moving the story forward. Enter background events in small doses via dialogue or interspersed with action, and only if it applies to the current situation. Less is better. And don’t reveal too much up front. It’s best to keep the reader guessing.
6. Leave out minor characters, physical descriptions unless applicable to the storyline, and subplots unless critical to the resolution of the main plot.
7. Avoid snippets of conversation, point-to-point description of your character’s every move, jumping from one place to another without any explanation, gratuitous sex, or threats on a character’s life unless they evolve from the story.
8. Include your character’s emotional reactions.
9. Stay in the protagonist’s viewpoint as you would in the story. Use transitions if you switch viewpoints. Be careful of too much head hopping in a synopsis.
10. Show your character’s internal struggle as well as her external conflict. What’s inhibiting her from making a commitment to the hero? What is causing her to doubt her abilities?
11. Include the emotional turning points. For any genre, tell us what’s at stake for the heroes. What will happen if they fail?
12. In a romance, make sure you cover the goals and motivation of your hero/heroine, how they first meet, their romantic conflict, what leads up to the first kiss, complications that keep them apart, what they admire in each other, the black moment, and the resolution. What makes these two people right for each other that no one else can provide?
13. If it’s the first book in a series, you might begin with a short profile of your main character(s). For a mystery, offer a few paragraphs about the sleuth. For a romance, write a paragraph each about your hero and heroine. What do they hope to accomplish? What is keeping them from reaching this goal? Why is it important to them?
14. Explain the ending. In a mystery, this means you tell whodunit and why. In a romance, it’ll be the resolution of the romantic conflict.
15. What lesson will your protagonist learn in this story? How will she grow and change?
MYSTERY EXAMPLE FROM FACIALS CAN BE FATAL(Bad Hair Day #13)
Salon owner Marla Vail’s new day spa hits a snag when a client dies during a facial.
Screams emanating from next door draw salon owner Marla Vail’s attention. She rushes into the adjacent day spa to see a crowd gathered in front of a treatment room. It appears Rosana Hernandez, an aesthetician, was doing a facial on her first morning client. She’d put on the woman’s chemical mask and left the room for ten minutes. Upon her return, Valerie Weston was dead.
Since the receptionist had enough presence of mind to call 911, Marla enters the treatment room to see if CPR will help. It’s too late. The woman has no pulse, and her skin is clammy. The greenish cream mask clings to her face.
The police arrive, along with Marla’s husband, Detective Dalton Vail. He takes charge of the scene and questions Rosana. The tearful beautician claims Val had been a long-time customer, and the only known problem she had was a latex allergy. Rosana was careful not to use latex gloves in her presence.
Marla, owner of the spa plus the salon, is upset about the negative publicity this incident will generate. She has applied to become an educator for Luxor Products, whom she’d worked for once at a beauty trade show. But there’s another person being considered for the job. A smear on Marla’s reputation would be detrimental. But she’s also concerned about Rosana and proving the aesthetician wasn’t at fault.
Marla has an additional problem during this December season, which should be full of happy holiday plans. One of her clients is suing her. The woman claims Marla left on her hair dye too long, and it burned her scalp. Marla contacts her insurance agent.
Doubts roil in her stomach, and they increase when lab tests confirm liquid latex had been added to Val’s face mask cream. Val died from anaphylactic shock. Rosana denies her involvement, and Marla believes her. So who else had access to the room, and why would someone target Val?
ROMANCE EXAMPLE FROM WARRIOR LORD (Drift Lords #3)
A fantasy wedding in Las Vegas turns into a nightmare when contest winner Erika Sherwood realizes she’s married an alien.
Erika has had one drink too many at the blackjack table in Las Vegas when a bearded man wearing a cape and sword drops into the seat next to her. While his strange garb doesn’t arouse her curiosity, his comment on her wristwatch does. A gift from her parents when she turned sixteen, the watch runs with no visible mechanism and no battery, and it has a peculiar symbol engraved on its face. Her nape prickles at the man’s interest but an announcement over the loudspeaker distracts her.
The casino is holding a contest for engaged couples to win fifty thousand dollars. The lucky winners will have a televised wedding and receive a new car, a stay in the honeymoon suite, and the cash.
Erika mutters how she could sure use those funds, and the mysterious stranger overhears. He leans toward her and makes a scandalous suggestion. Why not pretend they’re engaged and enter the contest? He needs a room in the Viking-themed resort, but the hotel is full.
Giddy from the free drinks offered by the staff, Erika accepts his proposition. She doesn’t think they’ll win, but hey, the competition will be fun and all contestants get bonus credits on their club cards.
When they actually win the contest, she goes through the rushed wedding ceremony in a mental fog. Magnor kisses her and something sparks between them. However, she balks when he suggests they stay together in the honeymoon suite. She already has a room at the resort. However, his rationale is valid. If the resort people discover their deception, she and Magnor might lose their prizes.
Soon she’s alone in a room with the tall stranger. She’s drawn to his brooding good looks and muscled form but is puzzled when he becomes taciturn at her attempts to draw him out.
Someone knocks on the door. It’s the official from the televised marriage. He wants Erika’s address so he can mail out the official marriage certificate. With a jolt of clarity, Erika realizes the ceremony was valid.
Quelling her panic, she considers that having an unexpected husband might suit her needs.
I hope these examples make you curious to read on. How long should your synopsis be? Mine average around fifteen pages. Sometimes a publisher will ask for a one or two page synopsis which means you’ll have to encapsulate your story into a shorter form. Stay tuned for my next post on The One Page Synopsis.
Besides giving my own talk on “Book Promotion on a Budget” at the Florida Writers Association 2017 conference, I sat in on a couple of other presentations about book marketing. Here are some of the main points I gleaned. Any errors are due to my misinterpretation.
If your book isn’t selling, you may need to:
Change the cover
Get more reviews Write a letter to readers asking for reviews.
Continue to acquire reviews for backlist titles.
Aim for 100 reviews on Amazon to make an impact.
Evaluate your Amazon page Check your keywords and categories.
Keyword strings work better than single keywords.
Note the sales rank of each category.
Examine your social media influence
Do you need to increase your engagement? This matters more than the number of followers.
Put your book out in multiple formats, not ebooks alone. Consider print and audiobooks.
Is your book in the right genre?
How relevant is your backlist title? Does it need an update and a fresh cover?
Are you marketing your book to the right audience?
Practice ebook price rotation. Ideal ebook pricing is $2.99 to $5.99. Shuffle your books in and out of sales promotions.
Plan a promotional campaign that includes Publicity, Online Promotion, Events, and Multimedia.
Enter Here to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench.
Here’s another opportunity to win free ebooks! Visit Aug. 19 – 26 BookFunnel Mystery Giveaway Collect a bundle of 25 mystery ebooks, including Murder by Manicure. Do you like author giveaways? What prize do you like to win the best?
<><><> Save the Date: September 12, 2017 at 7:00 – 8:30 pm EDT Book Launch Party for HAIR BRAINED (#14 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries) Join Us on Facebook for Fun & Prizes!
What is a blog? And how do you start one? This past weekend, I gave a talk to a group of aspiring writers on “The Writer’s Life.” During the Q&A session, one person referred to my section on book marketing. “I don’t understand about blogs. Can you explain more about them?” So I thought this would be a good time for a review of the principles. I’ve been blogging for over ten years. I regard it as a live journal that includes glimpses into your life such as travels, hobbies, other fun activities or musings on life in general. Plus, as a writer, you can offer tips on writing craft and marketing and share the creative process. So here are some items to consider. Define Your Purpose. Are you aiming to build an author platform? Do you want to be recognized as an expert in your field? To engage with readers? Or to have other writers look to you for advice? Ask yourself why you want to start a blog. Determine Your Goals. Do you mean to increase book sales? Gain a substantial number of followers? Attract comments on each blog? Receive requests for guest posts? What’s your benchmark of success? Set Parameters. How often do you intend to post? What days of the week are best? What time during the day will more people likely read your post? How long should each post be? Check your analytics as time goes on and make adjustments accordingly. Brainstorm Topics. While you are writing a book, jot down blog topics related to your theme, research, and writing process. These will be useful either to show your story in progress or to provide fodder for blog tours when your new release comes out. Meanwhile, determine how your content can add value to people’s lives. In what way can your personal anecdotes inspire others? Some authors set certain days for specific blog topics. For example, one day they might post recipes. Another day they might bring in a guest blogger. Or perhaps they do author interviews. Excerpts, book reviews, or trivia related to a particular hobby or personal interest might fill in other slots. I like to do conference workshop recaps. Or you can write posts as they come to you. Acquire a Site. When you’re ready to start, register at WordPress.com or Blogger for a free site. Or add a blog to your website. Become familiar with the features and start posting. Link the Blog to Your Social Media Sites. Not only should visitors be able to tweet and share each particular article, but your posts can be linked to your Twitter and Facebook pages. Check your Settings for how to enable these features or ask your Web designer to add the proper Plug-In. What Pages Should Your Blog Site Contain? Keep in mind that visitors to your blog, if separate from your website, might not visit you elsewhere. So consider what Pages you’ll want to have. Here are some suggestions: Welcome or Home Page; About (Bio); Appearances; Book Trailers; Books List (with series books in order); Contact (your email); Giveaways. In the sidebar, you can show your book covers, a Blog Roll with links to other authors’ sites, a Search box, a Subscribe button, Social Networking Icons, and an RSS feed button. Include Photos in your Posts. Photos will draw more hits, but be careful of copyright issues. Upload your own photos. Obtain photos at royalty-free sites or at least make sure you provide attribution. Use Keywords. Use tags with keywords and put keywords in your text to drive traffic to your site. How to Gain Followers
Post often. Some people set themes, like “Recipe Monday” or “Guest Blogger Wednesday” or “Photo Friday.” Be consistent in your approach and keep your material current.
Have a clear and catchy headline for each post.
End your posts with a question to stimulate discussion.
Don’t use your blog solely to promote your books. You’re building a community of readers who want to get to know you, or else you are establishing yourself as an expert by offering useful material. Share new release info, reviews, and contests sparingly.
Comment on other people’s blogs.
Invite guests who have a following.
Always respond to comments and respect other people’s opinions.
On occasion, offer a prize drawing from commenters.
If you get a lot of comments on certain types of posts, steer your blog in that direction. Be responsive to readers. Note what engenders interest and what does not.
Be careful what you put out there. This is a public post. Avoid politics, religion, and any mention of personal business or issues you don’t want to share.
Always be respectful of other industry professionals.
Include links and images in your posts to raise visibility.
Index Your Blog When your blog is a few years old, you might want to reissue an updated article. Keeping records of the topics, categories, and dates will help you retrieve these files. I suggest you write your blog in Word and save the posts by month and year. It’s imperative to keep your own blogs on your computer so you don’t lose them if there’s an online snafu. Then keep a separate file that’s an index so you can quickly search topics. GIVEAWAYS Goodreads Giveaway, July 6 – 20 Enter Here to win a signed ARC of Hair Brained (Bad Hair Day Mystery #14). Hairstylist Marla Vail determines to learn the truth when her best friend is hurt in a suspicious auto accident. Booklovers Bench, July 1 – 18 Enter Here to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench.
Pitching Your Novel to an Editor/Agent Are you preparing for a conference but your knees get shaky at the thought of an editor/agent appointment? Be prepared, not scared. Begin your ten minute pitch session by offering the editor or agent a handshake along with your name. If you have a business card, hand it over. Sit down and smile and state your story’s genre and word count. Mention which imprint at the publishing house you are targeting. Then continue with the following. Do not bring your manuscript. Do not ramble on with plot details. Do have a completed book ready to submit. Do hit these high points and then let the editor do the talking. LOG LINE: When planning your pitch, think in terms of Key Words and Hot Premises for a one line summary of your work. Look at TV Guide for examples of log lines. Examples of key words are “humorous cozy”, “legal thriller” or “courtroom drama.” Be prepared to compare your work to movies or other authors in the same genre. Facials Can Be Fatal: Salon owner Marla Vail’s new day spa hits a snag when a client dies during a facial in this killer cozy mystery. Warrior Lord: A fantasy wedding in Las Vegas turns into a nightmare when contest winner Erika Sherwood realizes she’s married an alien. CHARACTERS: Don’t crowd your pitch with too many character names. In a mystery, stick with the sleuth, victim, and killer. In a romance, just the hero and heroine count. Identify your main characters by means of an adjective and a noun. i.e. sassy hairstylist, scandalous socialite, shy schoolteacher, reckless ranger, dashing detective. OPENING HOOK: Describe the initial set up or how the story opens. Permed to Death: Hairstylist Marla Shore is giving her client a perm when she goes into the back room to get some clean towels. She hears a loud crash, rushes back into the salon, and finds her client dead in the shampoo chair. Warrior Prince: Mythology student Nira Larsen receives a summer job offer she can’t refuse—to act as a tour guide for a team of warriors from another planet. MOTIVATION: In a romance, this is the internal conflict that keeps the couple apart. In a mystery, this would be why the sleuth feels compelled to get involved. Hanging by a Hair: Marla’s husband is implicated in the murder of their neighbor. A police detective, he’s removed from the case. She means to find the killer, clear her husband’s name, and make the neighborhood safe again. Warrior Lord: Magnor is a Tsuran swordsman who has been shunned by his tribe. Evidence pointed his way when his brother-in-law was found murdered. He took the fall for his sister, who lied him to gain his property. He doesn’t trust women who might betray a man, nor does he consider himself worthy of love since he lost his honor. RESOLUTION: How will your characters grow and change by the end of the story? In a romance, what compromises will each person make to bring about a HEA ending? In a mystery, what insight does the main character have about herself by the final chapter? UNIQUENESS: How is your book different from others in the genre? What special knowledge or fresh angle do you have to offer? Does the theme deal with any issues in today’s news? SERIES OR SINGLE TITLE: If this is meant to be a series, give the overall series title and brief blurbs for the next books. If you have an overall arc for your main character, here’s where you can mention your protagonist’s inner journey. If the editor or agent shows interest, you can briefly mention the continuing characters that will populate your stories. In the Bad Hair Day Mysteries, these include Detective Dalton Vail, who becomes Marla’s love interest. There’s her mother and other relatives, her salon colleague Nicole, and her friends Tally and Arnie. These people are part of the world you are creating. They’ll become friends to your readers. MARKETING: What is your series marketing hook? i.e. “It’s Murder, She Wrote in a beauty salon with a South Florida slant.” Do you have a platform? A niche audience? How do you plan to promote the book? When I was starting out with my series, I might have said: “Besides appealing to mystery lovers who like humor and a touch of romance, I’ll target people in the beauty business such as hairstylists, manicurists, and salons owners. Plus, Florida is a popular site for mysteries. People who’ve visited here or who live here like to read about familiar places.” Are you set up with a website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter? Are you prepared to do a virtual blog tour, book trailer, and more? Show that you’re willing to work hard as a partner in marketing your work. SELL YOURSELF: Ultimately, it’s your energy and enthusiasm that count. You have to be someone the agent or editor wants to acquire as a client. Be professional and courteous at all times. It may even be that you speak about something else you have in common, i.e. trying new recipes or touring the city sights. Then when you send in your proposal, your cover letter can state: “I enjoyed our discussion at the XYZ conference about seafood. If you recall, I’d mentioned my book….” Restrict your pitch to the above essentials. Avoid descriptions of plot details, physical character traits, and your own personal history unless it relates to the story. CONCLUDING THE INTERVIEW Thank the editor or agent for their time. If they request you send them something, ask if they want to see a query letter, proposal, or the full manuscript. Also, do they prefer an email or snail mail submission? Ask for their business card before you shake hands again and depart. FOLLOW UP: At the editor or agent’s request, mail your work to them afterward. If it’s via snail mail, which is unusual these days, mark the package “Requested Material.” If it’s an email, be sure to put in the subject line a reference to where you met, i.e. SleuthFest Conference Author. Then cross your fingers and hope for the best! CLICK TO TWEET Did you miss my earlier posts on Getting an Agent? Go here for Part 1 and Part 2. <><><> Sign up for my Newsletterfor my latest book news, giveaways, sales, and events. Free book sampler for new subscribers.
In Getting an Agent – Part 1, we discussed how to find a literary agent. Let’s say you’ve made the connection. Here’s what to do next. Questions to ask a potential agent How many agents and staff work in your agency?
How many clients does the agency represent? How many clients do you handle personally?
How long have you been an agent? Are you a member of AAR?
What is your particular area of interest?
How many new authors have you sold in the past year?
What is your average response time for a completed manuscript?
Do you prefer emails or phone calls?
How long does it take for you to return a phone call or email inquiry?
How do you feel about multiple submissions?
How long do you wait after sending an editor a manuscript before following up?
Do you give your client an update on the status of their projects, or do they have to contact you?
How many rejections would it take on a manuscript before you stop marketing it?
Do you handle subsidiary rights, such as translation, foreign sales, film/TV, audio?
Do you offer a written or verbal contract?
What percentage do you charge? (15% is standard for domestic sales)
What happens if you die or are disabled?
Do you deposit money received into an escrow account for clients?
How soon do you pay clients after receiving a royalty check?
How do you keep track of submissions?
Do you submit to digital first publishers?
Do you allow an author to do indie projects separate from the work you represent?
What do you expect from your clients? Contracts Not all agents offer written contracts. If you do get one, be careful to read the terms before you sign. See if the agreement covers only this project or everything you write. You may request changes, such as to specify novel-length works of fiction only. If you want to do indie projects on the side, make sure the agent is agreeable and that you’re not obligated to pay him any part of this income. The agent should get paid only for rights he sells on your behalf. Be careful of committing yourself for more than a year, and make sure you can disengage with a written notice. If you terminate, you should have no further obligation to the agent except for works which the agent has submitted or sold. Beware of “interminable agency” or “perpetual agency” clauses in your publishing contracts. This clause grants the agent the exclusive right to represent your work for the length of the copyright. Terminology like “agency coupled with an interest” is also to be avoided. Do not commit for sequels or subsequent works or the length of your copyright. Also examine the clause an agent puts into a publishing contract when the time comes. Some of the professional writing organizations have sample contracts online, so get involved in the writing community and ask experienced authors your questions after you’ve done your own research. How to tell if your agent isn’t working out A. You never hear from him.
B. He doesn’t answer your calls or emails.
C. You don’t receive copies of rejection letters if you’ve requested them.
D. The agent turns down your new ideas.
E. He claims to be busy with more important clients.
F. You find out he never submitted your manuscript to an editor as promised.
How to switch agents Send your current agent a letter or email and say your relationship isn’t working out as desired, and you wish to move in a new direction. Thus you are terminating your agreement. Keep a printed copy of his acknowledgment. Keep in mind that you remain under obligation to this agent for any work he has submitted or sold for you. To be clear on the termination terms, check your agency agreement. Once you are free from your previous relationship, you can seek a new agent. Author/Agent Etiquette
Be prepared to suggest markets to an agent to show you are savvy about the business and have done your research. It’s hard to keep up with all the changes in the publishing industry. Consider your relationship as a business partnership where you each contribute.
Don’t accost an agent in the restroom at a conference or if they are in a deep discussion with another author.
Leave your manuscript at home. If an agent agrees to see your work, follow up with an email and ask for his submission requirements. Remind him where you met.
Don’t hound your agent. Responses from editors can take months. If you need someone to hold your hand, join a critique group. Remember that you are not the agent’s only client.
Always be courteous and professional. Keep producing new work at a steady pace. Listen to your agent’s suggestions even if you agree to disagree. Maintain a social media presence and keep up to date on industry news.
How do you get a literary agent? Here are some tips to start your journey from writer to published author. First, complete your manuscript in the proper format. Look online at literary agent sites for submission requirements. Where do you find an agent? Sign up for writers’ conferences with editor/agent appointments. If your group runs a local event, volunteer for the editor/agent committee. Enter writing contests where agents are the final judges. Note the acknowledgments to agents in books by your favorite authors to find people who represent your genre. Search the Guide to Literary Agents or Writer’s Market at your local library. Follow agents on Twitter. Look for the hashtag #MSWL (manuscript wish list). You can get more specific for a particular genre (i.e. #MSWL Mystery). Also check out #Pitchmas,#AdPit, #Pit2Pub, #PitMad, #AgentsDay, #Carinapitch, #PitMatch for online pitches. Also use #AskAgent if you want to find agents who might be interested your story. Here are some places that might hold online pitch sessions: http://cupidslitconnection.blogspot.com/ http://www.savvyauthors.com http://www.brenda-drake.com/pitmad/ http://www.soyouthinkyoucanwrite.com/ Also follow blogs by well-known agents and publishing industry professionals. You’ll learn who these people are by getting involved in the writing community. Do Your Research http://aaronline.org/ http://absolutewrite.com/forums/activity.php http://accrispin.blogspot.com/ http://www.agentresearch.com http://www.agentquery.com http://www.literarymarketplace.com/ http://www.manuscriptwishlist.com/ http://mswishlist.com/ http://www.publishersmarketplace.com http://www.querytracker.net http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/alerts/ http://www.writersmarket.com/ http://www.1000literaryagents.com/ Follow the guidelines for submissions on the agent’s website. Write a snappy query letter introducing yourself, giving the word count and genre for your book, your writing credits, and a few sentences about your story. Make it read like back cover copy. Include a hot premise or marketing hook that makes your story stand out. This letter should be no longer than one page. DO NOT describe your life history or any personal details that do not relate to your writing career. DO include if you belong to a critique group, have won writing contests, or if you’ve attended writing workshops and conferences. If you hear nothing for a couple of months, send a follow-up email to ask if the agent received your query. Be courteous and respectful of the agent’s time. Be aware that some agents won’t respond at all, and this can be taken as a rejection. But follow through at least once to make sure your email was received. As an alternative, you can request a return receipt for when the agent opens the mail. If you receive a rejection letter with detailed suggestions for your work, write a thank you note. Remember, an author-agent relationship is a two-way street. Just as you want to hire the ideal agent, the agent wants to land the ideal client. Be courteous, professional, and savvy about the industry. Never pay an agent any fees. The agent will receive a commission on sales.