Monday, March 26, 2012

Web Sites for Writers


Ever get lost in your Web searches for information? Everyone does. Be inspired by AgentQuery.com and their following list for serious writers:

"We've done your homework for you: here are some of the best, most useful websites out there for writers. When it comes to helping writers find a literary agent, chatting with other like-minded authors, or researching industry leads and alternative publishing paths, these are some of the first-class writing and publishing websites.

"Also be sure to check out our official AQ "KNOW THY GENRE" Writers Website Cheat Sheet in which we list the top websites for fiction genres like literary fiction, children's/midde grade/young adult, science fiction & fantasy, romance, thrillers & suspense, mystery and crime, and historical fiction. "

AGENT HUNTING

The Association of Authors’ Representatives
The AAR was formed in 1991 through the merger of the Society of Authors' Representatives (founded in 1928) and the Independent Literary Agents Association (founded in 1977). To qualify for membership in the AAR, an agent must meet professional standards specified in AAR's bylaws and agree to subscribe to its Canon of Ethics. However, AAR cannot regulate the commissions, fees, services, or other competitive business practices of its members.

Their website and searchable agent member database has recently been updated. Based on our current intelligence, it seems like AAR has stepped up to the plate and made an effort to keep their database regularly maintained and accurate. And although we consider every agent in our AQ database legitimate, not every agent in our AQ database is a member of AAR. In our opinion, AAR membership is not a black & white litmus test for good versus bad. It simply offers one source for verifying potential credibility. For more info. on what exactly it means for a literary agent to be an AAR member, check out our official AQ Guide to AAR Membership.

Preditors and Editors
P & E’s website keeps an ongoing list of literary agents, reputable and non-reputable, for all writers to browse and compare notes. And although this website doesn’t maintain current addresses of agents or always list the most accurate information regarding which agent is affiliated with which agency (literary agents are peripatetic; they change agencies, start their own agencies, then close shop and move to bigger agencies more times in a year than J-Lo gets married), it does serve as a great source for ferreting out the scammers.

Bottom line: if you’re interested in an agent who you don’t find in our AQ database, we recommend that you cross-reference the agent’s name with Preditors and Editors’ list. If you find the agent’s name on P & E with a “Not Recommended” rating, then you’ll immediately know why she’s not in our AQ database. Read our Beware of Scammers page, and stay away from Ms. Questionable Agent—far, far away.

Publishers Marketplace
Publishers Marketplace is one of the most trusted industry-insider resources and offers a wealth of information for a month-to-month subscription fee of $20. This subscription includes search privileges to view their "recent sales" agent database. PM also offers Publishers Lunch, a free daily e-zine that recaps the book sales made to the major & indie publishers. For example, Publishers Lunch tells you that Mr. Agents sold the book Lovely Secrets by Sho-shana Friedricks, about a twenty-something girl with leukemia who refuses to tell her fiancĂ© she’s dying, to Ms. Editor at Simon & Schuster. Keep in mind, however, that Publishers Lunch only reports the news that agents and editors feed them, and not every agent on the planet feels compelled to report their sales to Publishers Lunch. And by the way, our AQ database only lists a "snapshot" of an agent's sales history, especially highlighting the titles that can be reviewed on Amazon. We let Publishers Marketplace take care of databasing all the agents' deals for us.

Writer Beware
Similar to Predators & Editors, Writer Beware’s goal is to provide writers with current information about known scammers in the literary agent world. They often put out an A.P.B regarding specific names and organizations to avoid at all cost. They also thoroughly outline how to tell a reputable literary agent from a questionable one, and maintain a blog to educate writers about the detrimental scamming practices of fee-charging “rogue” agents who prey on the vulnerable, desperate sensibilities of wannabe authors. You can also email Writer Beware to ask specifically about an agent or publisher, and they'll check the agent or publisher against their extensive database. If Writer Beware shouts, "Stay away!" we recommend that you sprint in the other direction of that questionable agent or publisher.

GENERAL WRITING & PUBLISHING RESOURCES

Poets & Writers Magazine
Poets & Writers offers informative articles, publishing news, special features, and important deadlines for literary contests, conferences, residencies, awards, and grants. It’s the best online and in-print guidance magazine for aspiring writers—and they’re not paying us to say that. A subscription to this magazine will keep you informed and in-the-loop, and we also recommend checking out their Tools for Writers. It’s a treasure trove of links and mini-databases related to writing contests, indie presses, grants, residencies, writing organizations, literary agents, and more.

Writer's Digest
Writer's Digest offers both a website and monthly print magazine that provides topical "digestible" information of interest to mainstream writers. Their articles are generally geared towards the beginning to intermediate level writer, and often focus on the mechanics of good writing and selling one's self as a writer. If you're new to all of this, reading Writer's Digest is a great way to slowly immerse yourself into the world of publishing and its complex facets. If you're looking for an agent, we purusing their blog, Guide to Literary Agents. Writer's Digest also sponsors their annual 101 Best Web Sites for Writers. And you know it, baby, AQ made the 2010 short list. Sixth year in a row!

Writing World
This site offers solid nuts-and-bots advice to all writers of all genres. Fresh articles and columns are posted weekly, and there's simply a mind-boggling amount of how-to advice for the beginning writer, including A Step-by-Step Guide to Launching Your Writing Career and How to Write a Successful Query Letter as well as How to Find Markets for your writing, and Aspects of the Writing Life (like rejection and writer's block). And that's just for the newbies. And perhaps most helpful to emerging writers is their Rights & Contracts page, packed with information regarding publishing rights, copyrights, contracts & payment issues, piracy, plagiarism and scams.

WRITING & PUBLISHING ONLINE COMMUNITIES

AgentQuery Connect
AQ Connect is our online social networking community. It's a great place to poke around for the most current information regarding how to get an agent, agent submissions, as well as the state of the current pubishing industry. We offer a dedicated group just for Query Critiques and Synopsis Critiques as well as a Guppie Pond for all you newbies who have a question, but feel timid about publicly posting it. Whether you want to just lurk and learn, or become an active participating member, AQ Connect is fresh, informative, and free resource to educate yourself on all the aspects of professional publishing.

Absolute Write
AbsoluteWrite has a huge, loyal fan base that is dominated by newbie writers and established authors who critique, gossip, and educate each other about the realities and pitfalls of the publishing industry. Their Beware and Background Check forum is moderated by several watchdogs who tirelessly work to educate newbie writers who fall prey to the most common of the agency and publishing scams. If you can get past the newbie scam paranoia that is prevalent on this board, you'll glean some valuable tips and writing opportunities from the more regular posters.

Figment Fiction
Figment is a community where you can share your writing, connect with other readers, and discover new stories and authors. Whatever you're into, from sonnets to mysteries, from sci-fi stories to cell phone novels, you can find it all here. Figment Fiction is quickly becoming one of the top new literary social networking sites, and over a dozen publishers, including Random House, Macmillan, Penguin, Hachette and Perseus are already paying to market their books and authors on the site. Future plans for the site include a marketplace where authors—both professional and amateur—and book publishers can sell their works.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Calls for Submission


Today's post comes from Poets & Writers Magazine, a call for submissions. Be inspired! -G.H. Sherrer

ARE YOU A GRASS ROOTS POET? We define a grass roots poet as: one who is not necessarily educated or defined as a poet by traditional poetry societies. Diversity! Submit work to Green Fuse Poetic Arts Association’s anthology, chapbook, e-zine publications, contests, as well as the new “Grandmother Editions.” www.greenfusepoeticarts.org.
AUGUST 2013 ANTHOLOGY from Sibling Rivalry Press seeks poetry submissions. “This Assignment Is So Gay: LGBTIQ Poets on the Art of Teaching.” Deadline is June 1. See website for complete guidelines: www.thisassignmentissogay.com.
THE CANCER POETRY PROJECT has extended its deadline to April 2012. Seeking cancer-related poems by patients/survivors, spouses/partners, family members, friends, and health advisers. Roughly 150 poems will be selected for second anthology. A dozen poets and their favorite cancer organizations will receive cash awards. To submit, visit www.cancerpoetryproject.com. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @cancerpoetry.
ECHOOK DIGITAL PUBLISHING publishes fiction, memoir, and essays on all platforms. Be read by thousands of readers in 95 countries, featured (with links) on Facebook, Twitter, and at echook.com. Learn techniques of classic authors: free writing tips from Tessa Smith McGovern, teacher at Sarah Lawrence College. Submissions open now. echook.com.
POETRY IN THE CATHEDRAL 2012: An Anthology of New Christian Poetry seeks original, unpublished poetry dealing with themes of Christian faith, life, and values. Limit 3 poems, no fee. Pays in contributor’s copy. Please review guidelines carefully. Deadline April 1. Full details found in Submissions at www.poetryinthecathedral.com.
SEEKING ESSAYS ON THE GRAND CANYON backpacking experience for a Vishnu Temple Press anthology. Avoid tales of “conquering” or merely “surviving” the Canyon. Convey the sights and sounds, the texture and spirit of that place, and the richness of your immersion. Deadline June 30. Guidelines at www.vishnutemplepress.com. Questions? E-mail canyonhikingessays@gmail.com.
SHORT HORROR STORIES NEEDED. 1,000 words or less, for soon-to-be-published anthology. More info: www.apocryphile.orgshort.html.
WHISPERING ANGEL BOOKS is accepting inspirational and uplifting short stories and poems about the children that touch our lives for our latest anthology. 1,500 words max. Submission fee is $5 per story or up to 5 poems. Deadline: April 30. To submit and review full guidelines: www.whisperingangelbooks.com.
WISING UP PRESS/UNIVERSAL TABLE: Submissions for a Wising Up anthology, “Daring to Repair: What It Takes, Who Does It, and Why.” Poetry, fiction, memoir, and creative nonfiction on the theme of repair in all kinds of relationships. Deadline: June 1. Full description and guidelines: www.universaltable.org/wisingup.html.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Traditional Publishing: Fiction

Attract Publisher Attention. Be a Beautiful Jellyfish in a School of Shad Minnows.
There is no mystery in what makes one manuscript be picked up and another rejected. In today's world, it's whatever will sell. Period. And one only has to look closer than their local B&N to see the popular genre's and topics. However, never sell out and write about vampires when you detest such weirdness. Be true to yourself, true to what's on your heart to write. Having said this, a writer can still get points across and package a story in a way to be picked up. Below are some tips gleaned from AgentQuery.com.
Be Inspired!-G.H.Sherrer
Novels:
The good news about getting fiction published is that there are no rules. You don’t have to be previously published, a graduate of a MFA creative writing program, the winner of a prestigious contest. You certainly don’t have to write like Jane Austin. You just have to tell a brilliant, intriguing story in 85,000 to 100,000 words. Write a story that neatly falls into a popular genre category like commercial fiction, women’s fiction, romance, suspense, or mystery.

The fiction market is tight. You’ll also find out that it doesn’t matter how beautiful you write. You better tell a good story or you’ll be rejected. A good story with great hook, some snazzy characters, pacing, and an intriguing plot. If you've written a literary masterpiece, be prepared for a lot of rejection. 

Writers, be mentally prepared. It's easy to say you don't care about being published while you're writing the great American novel. But four years later, when you're finished with your masterpiece, and you begin shopping it around, you'll find it hard to swallow all those positive rejections from literary agents who say, "Wow, you're such a beautiful writer, but sorry, I can't sell your book."

Plot over prose is the mantra of publishing nowadays.  

One final thought, novelists… write a query letter and start soliciting agents, but ONLY if you’ve finished the whole manuscript. Agents will want to see the whole polished book before they extend representation to a newbie unpublished author, so don’t query agents until your novel is complete.


Novellas & Short Story Collections:
Traditional publishers want novels, not novellas (adult novels under 60,000 words) or short story collections. Agents simply follow these orders. While it’s true that agents can sell linked novellas or short story collections to publishers, it’s often in a two-book deal in which the second book is a future novel. Although stories are great for literary magazines, the mantra in the publishing world is that short story collections don’t sell. So if you’ve got one to peddle, be prepared for a long uphill battle for your short story collection.

It’s not impossible to sell a short story collection to a major publisher, but it does help if the stories are closely linked somehow—thematically or through a few reoccurring characters. It also helps if one or two stories in the collection have been previously published in notable literary journals. Being published on the internet doesn’t count.

Don’t take this attitude towards short stories as dismissive of their merit. Plenty of contemporary writers have broken into the publishing scene with their first short story collections. Aspiring authors simply need to know that novels are easier for agents to sell.

 

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Science of Querying a Traditional Publisher: Nonfiction Book

 
Don't be just another sloppy fish in the sea (publisher slush pile). Learn to query.

Attracting the attention of a literary agent or editor is just like applying for a job or college. Depending on your type of writing, whether short stories, novel, non-fiction book you hope to publish, there’s an established application process that every writer must follow. The basic application is a query, synopsis or proposal, and sample chapters. This remains the industry standard. Just like applying for a MFA program, where the quality of your overall application determines your acceptance, the same is true for agents, editors. Writing awards, MFA’s, referrals and publishing credits do influence many agent and editors, but most important is the quality of your writing.

Before you seek publication, make sure you’re the best. Write, edit and rewrite some more. Then show your friends, and attend a writing workshop before rewriting again. Your writing must be A+ quality. Otherwise, you’ll be disappointed.

My next series of blog posts will address how to query, specific to three genres. Below is my first:

Nonfiction:

According to AgentQuery.com, “It is much easier to sell nonfiction in today’s marketplace than fiction. In fact, it’s the rare agent who only specializes in fiction because nonfiction serves as the industry’s bread and butter. Every psychologist, relationship coach, medical expert, design guru, culinary extraordinaire, talk show host, politician, ex-Hollywood assistant, and organic farmer has a nonfiction book to sell. Why not you?”

Sure, literary agents prefer nonfiction authors with credentials and a platform (professional in-roads for promoting your book). But if you study the nonfiction books sold by many of the agents, you’ll find credentials don’t always mean a PhD or a ten-year career. Think through your life experiences and imagine possibilities.  

In the submission process, all agents require a query, describing who you are and why you’re qualified to write your book, and a proposal, including an outline, table of contents, and sample chapters. But that’s it. Agents don’t always need to see the whole nonfiction book because they can sell it to major publishers based upon the your credentials and proposal.
How do you write a nonfiction proposal? Very carefully, as a professional. This author found Michael Hyatt's "Writing a Winning Book Proposal" on literary agent Steve Laube's website helpful, and which you can find by Googling. Be Inspired! -G.H. Sherrer

Monday, March 5, 2012

Honing Craft: Writer Conferences

Don't Stay out on a Limb... All Alone. Join a Writer's Group. 
Unless you're some kind of literary genious, all writers need a continuous honing of skills. This writer believes in MFA programs. They certainly have their place, especially for those writers not disciplined enough to stay on task, write daily, seeking to learn by reading books on craft and by attending workshops and conferences. Now some folks cannot carve out time for MFA programs.

Oh, but you learned writing in school, you say? You're an avid reader and keen observer? Think again. Literary skills grow daily, upon use, building and improving over a lifetime. Some things I wrote five years ago are an embarrassment to me now. And they were published in an international journal, and not in an online blog either, but in a sleek quality magazine with lovely color. Today I'm still learning.

Okay, my subject today is on a writer's continuing education and comes about because I've just committed to three writers conferences this year. Why three? The diversity of genres, attendees and faculty. For me, there are other motives for attending than just learning craft. I can sell my books, socialize, be inspired by other writers, make useful contacts in the publishing world, find editors, an agent, publisher, make friends... network. All of this is rich and fulfilling writer resources, and well worth the cost of a conference.

Now, a writer can Google for conferences, or look at http://www.pw.org/ and select 'writer tools' then conferences category. I've found and have experience with a few with long history that are attracting serious writers:

The Alabama Writers Conclave is the oldest continuously running writers conference in America and the quailty of faculty and serious literary components are consistent, plus they have a great awards program open to national entries.See here:  www.AlabamaWritersConclave.org

If you write for children and youth, The Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators is another fine organization holding conferences nationally and regionally. They are mostly traditionally published authors, excluding all independent authors from book sales, but you can enter their contests, attend workshops, get you manuscript evaluated and hone craft. You may be able to find a critique group, too. See here: 
The National League of American Pen Women has a rich history dating back to the 19th Century. As their name implies, this group is only for women, but does include artists and composers, as well. These are all professionals, meaning they must prove income from sales of their craft, get personal recommendation and apply for membership through the National organization. These are serious folks, meaning in the sense of following protocol, bylaws, Constitution, on and on. However it is refreshing and inspiring to be among various types of professional artists. See here: www.americanpenwomen.org
Okay, I'm a newbie to this group, but it comes highly recommended for their serious down-to-business conference held at St. Simon's Island annually. They have a wide varity of contests included in the price, as well as manuscript critiques. See here: http://southeasternwriters.com
This conference held for inspirational writers (or any writers) is the best value I've found. I attended the one in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and went home with enough prize money to pay for the entire conference, plus I learned craft and had fun networking. See here: http://web.mac.com/wmdsloan/SCWC/Southern_Christian_Writers_Conference.html
My advice is to make conferences a regular part of your writer life. Each year commit to at least one, and be active, meaning enter contests, get manuscript evaluations, meet and greet. You will come away with renewed energy.  Be Inspired! G.H. Sherrer



Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Bright Day Dawns


As the sun peeks over the ridges here in Alabama, I'm thankful for another day's dawning... calmly. Yesterday's line of terrific storms and tornados stretching almost from Canada to the Gulf wreaked horror. Writing? Who had focus? I stayed in hyper alert mode all day. Even Facebook friends were mostly absent or sending hopes and prayers, speaking out of fear. Not a Facebook friend yet? Look for me there... but before another stormy day hits the country.

My weather alarm blared around 11:00pm last night, giving the 66th and final severe weather alert for the day. High winds and hail, the voice said. Do not travel unless necessary. On the road approaching  midnight? Well, I kept vigil for an hour and then fell peacefully aslseep until morning's light. 

So, good morning, World! It's great to be alive and with all the timbers of my house intact! What tidbit can I offer writers today to lend a helping hand? There's a Web site I've found to be a great writer resource. Check out www.WritersDigest.com and thank you for reading my blog. -G.H. Sherrer  

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Got Muse?


Is your inspiration dried up as a New Mexico canyon? Try writing more regularly, why don't you? I have a theory. If you're truly a writer you will write. A muse? Not necessary. The creative juices flow always, even in sleep. Even so, some need a jump start.

What inspires writers is as diverse as people are on the planet. One doesn't have to look beyond their own group of friends or family, don't need to travel widely though it can give greater insight than armchair explorations. Inspiring scenes, settings, characters are everywhere. If you'll look more closely at details.

Writers need to write on a steady basis. That's one way we improve craft. Not that MFA programs and workshops don't have their place, but that's a subject for another day. Many writers need a boost, a gentle nudge to get them going. That's where prompts come in. Poets & Writers Magazine has a wonderful Web site where prompts are posted at pw.org. I have their comments and one prompt below.
Write on, friends! And be inspired! -G.H. Sherrer

"The most important and underrated factor in a writer’s success is discipline. Talent and luck always help, but having a consistent writing practice is often the difference between aspiring writers and published writers.
The advice we hear from agents, editors, and authors alike is always the same: Focus on the writing. However, finding the time and inspiration to write is not always easy. That’s where creative writing prompts and exercises can help. Writing prompts provide writers with a starting place, an entry point into their writing practice. Sometimes creative writing prompts and exercises result in a workable draft of a story or poem. Other times, they may lead to what can seem like a dead end. But having to generate ideas, being pushed in a direction where you wouldn't normally go in your writing, and just plain putting pen to paper is often enough to provide that crucial dose of inspiration."

FICTON PROMPT:

Alone in the Woods

Write a story in which a character lives alone in a desolate environment—the woods, the desert, the mountains. Describe your character going about the day, and use that action as a backdrop for revealing the reason why he or she has chosen to retreat from the world. Then, have another character enter the scene, describing how he or she arrives. What happens next?