Wednesday, March 31, 2010

How I sold my book, part 1

For aspiring authors the question of how an author sold his/her first book is always of great interest. They're looking to do the same thing, so of course they'd like to get the ins and outs from someone who has been there. At all the writing conferences I've attended, this question is tops when the panels convene to answer queries from the audience.

Writers working diligently to get their creative genius down on paper aren't always the best at selling, so any tips can help. There are lots of blogs out there giving advice, most of it useful to a certain extent. But one can only be told to spell correctly and use proper grammar so many times. Another popular tip is telling people to "develop a unique voice." But again, that's not much in the way of advice, everyone knows that already. And no one I've yet heard has ever been able to define a "unique voice," let alone explain how you develop one. So in the end that particular piece of advice isn't much more helpful than telling a theoretical physicist to "become more of a genius."

What I've found is that many of these writers are actually looking to find a shortcut, a magic spell that they can whip out when they meet an editor or agent that so enraptures them they cannot help but make an offer.

Luckily there is such a magic spell, and they used to sell them in comic book ads. It's called a hypno-wheel. Spin it in the eyes of your intended target, and they become puppets in your hands. Mu-hahahaha!

Actually, the spell is call writing. If you do it well you will capture an editor's or agent's attention. I know it's not much, but it's the truth. But when you tell writers that, they want more. "But how did you sell your book? They want your story.

I've found that telling your personal story about how you were trapped in an elevator with an editor or how you rescued an agent from a burning building is a lot of fun, but in the end doesn't go much further than "develop your own voice." And burning buildings and stuck elevators are hard to recreate, and probably should send you to jail for trying.

It's fun to hear these stories, but in the end your writing is what will tell. That, and hard work.

Tomorrow, how I got a book contract. (Yes, I will tell you my story.)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Just write it down

I had an idea for a picture book this morning while putting on my sock. Actually I was checking my email on my IPOD while putting on my sock, but something I saw there gave me a story idea. I shoved the IPOD in my pocket, ran for a pad of paper with one shoe on, and started scribbling my thoughts down before they turned to breakfast. Oatmeal can ruin any idea.

Halfway through my frantic scratching there was a knock on the door. Someone wanted to trim my shrubs. But rather than interrupt my thoughts, and say that I don't want my shrubs trimmed no matter what they look like, I dashed into the basement with my pad and pen and finished writing while sitting next to the washer and dryer. (My shrubs really need trimming).

Once I had my idea down on paper it was safe to eat. I now had time to get out the laptop and commit my masterpiece to digital form.

This of course leads to today's question.

What do you do when you have an idea for a story?

Do you write it down immediately while it's still fresh like that beer you just opened? Flat beer is the curse of modern civilization.

Do you let it simmer in your brain, maturing like a fine wine?

Can you stand having it in your head and not getting it written down?

And what are you doing when you get your ideas?

Mine seem to come to me at almost any time. I get them while showering, pulling cans of refried beans off the shelf at the grocery store, mowing the lawn, or fixing the plumbing. Although the ideas that come to me while fixing the plumbing are usually not printable, especially in the children's market.

Just wondering. But if you're a writer, you've got lots of ideas, and a burning need to get them written down and read by other people.

Friday, March 26, 2010

So you're a writer...

So you're a writer?

I get that question a lot. People are often interested in the answer, even if they don't like to read that much. And when I say I'm a children's author, they like it even more, because even if they don't read their kids are darn sure going to if they know what's good for them. It's much more fun to tell people that you're a writer than say, a gas station attendant or a shoe salesmen.

The trick comes with the follow up question. Where can I get your books?

Well, if you're like most of the writers I personally know, the answer is, "I'm still working on getting an agent or an editor."

That usually ends the conversation. But if you are in that situation, don't fret. You will sell your work one of these days. An agent or editor is going to recognize all the effort and skill you've put into that manuscript and they will get it on the shelf, or into a Kindle. Your day will come.

I know this because an agent and then an editor did recognize my manuscript as marketable, and that's what it has to be to make it to a shelf or a Kindle.

So do you tell people that you're a writer even if you haven't sold anything?

The answer is "yes." The key is to say "writer," rather than "author," which implies that you've been published. If you think of yourself as a writer, if you're serious about it, if you are writing, then say, "Yes, I am a writer."

Don't worry about ending the conversation, it's only just begun.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

First post!

This is it, my first blog post. And the question you're all asking is, why?

Is it because I want to be famous?

Blogs don't make you famous.

Is it because I've gotten too big for my britches?

Possibly.

Is it because I like spending so much time with my computer?

Hardy-har-har.

No, it's really because I want to share my writing with as many people as possible, and to pass out free advice on writing, getting an agent, getting published, junk like that. I'm a sharer.