Gifts for the Writer in Your Life

Posted by on Dec 19, 2012 in Blog | 3 comments

Not sure what to buy that writer in your life for the holidays? That person who sometimes seems attached to her laptop for hours on end? Here are some ideas sure to brighten any writer’s life. (more…)

Insights From Your Friendly Neighborhood Literary Agent

Posted by on Nov 27, 2012 in Blog | 3 comments

Today’s guest blogger has had thirty years of experience in the publishing world. Claire Gerus has been Editor-in-Chief of two publishing houses, worked for seven major publishers, including Harlequin, Rodale, Random House, Doubleday, John Wiley, Kensington, and Adams Media, written articles for U.S. and Canadian magazines and newspapers, and taught corporate communications to such clients as IBM, Kelloggs, Mutual of Omaha, and Procter & Gamble.  

She is presently working as a literary agent and book development consultant. She is always interested in projects that can change readers’ lives for the better. She is open to assisting authors as an agent, a book developer, or an editor. She is now focusing on nonfiction projects for all ages.

When Lynn asked me to contribute some insights “from an agent’s point of view,” I had to stop and think. What would people want to know? Would they be most interested in how they could write more effective query letters? What the secrets of a successful submission might be? Or whether it’s even worth the time and energy to try to submit a book proposal, whether to an agent or to a publisher, given how tough the market is these days. (more…)

Free Books as Book Marketing Strategy

Posted by on Nov 1, 2012 in Blog | 0 comments

Our guest blogger today is Denise Roessle, author of Second-Chance Mother.

As a first-time author in early 2012, my hopes were high and my expectations were    reasonable. I had worked hard to build a following — via Facebook, my blog, and my website — so lots of friends, as well as strangers, were anticipating the release of Second-Chance Mother in both ebook and print versions. (more…)

A Query Letter that Sold a Book

Posted by on Oct 24, 2012 in Blog | 1 comment

Author John Quinn did his homework. He studied the elements of a query letter, then penned the query below. All it takes is one agent to like a query and request the proposal or manuscript, decide to represent and make a sale. In John’s case, that agent was the talented Claire Gerus, who proceeded to sell John’s book, Someone Like Me, to History Publishing. Note the hook used to begin the letter. It immediately draws you in and keeps you reading.


Dear Ms. Gerus:

I have a secret I want to share with you, a secret that only a few people in the entire world know…so far.  I was born with cerebral palsy and I joined the United States Navy.  I’ve only had to keep that secret for my entire twenty-year career as a sailor. (more…)

Lessons Learned from a First-Time Author

Posted by on Oct 22, 2012 in Blog | 1 comment

Today’s guest blog comes from John Quinn, author of the memoir Someone Like Me –  An Unlikely Story of Challenge and Triumph Over Cerebral Palsy published by History Publishing. John was born with cerebral palsy and kept it a secret in order to join the United States Navy. When John decided to write his story, he had to dig in and learn about the publishing process from square one. He tapped into the amazing determination and persistence that he developed during a lifetime of challenges and successfully ushered his dream of a published book into reality.

*     *     *

     I would like to share a few of the lessons that I learned in getting my memoir published.  These lessons come hard-earned and are things that I wish someone would have passed along to me when I was struggling to become an author. I hope they help you (more…)

From Book to Film

Posted by on Sep 27, 2012 in Blog | 2 comments

I finished reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky just under the wire. The movie opened on four screens a week ago, and will soon descend on more. If I see the movie first, I’m less inclined to read the book, and since Perks is one of those books that leaves permanent impressions on each of your senses, it would have been sad to have neglected the read. Now I’m holding my breath that the movie stays true to the book. (more…)

Sharpen Your Craft

Posted by on Sep 26, 2012 in Blog | 0 comments

A good book should leave you… slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it. – William Styron, interview, Writers at Work, 1958

So what makes a book good? In a novel, is it the characters, the plot, setting, point-of-view, or dialogue? Is it the use of metaphor and imagery? What about non-fiction? Is it the topic, organization, data, photos?

We could sit here all day, refilling our coffee cups, and analyze these questions down to the last period and semi-colon.

In the end, however, the answer is simple. After a reader turns the last page and mourns the fact that the inspiring, exhilarating journey has concluded, the question of “what makes a book good” boils down to one thing: the writing. It’s the writing that makes the book. The writing embraces all those elements mentioned above –character, imagery, organization, and it is the skilled writer who can assemble those elements and produce an exquisite, memorable tome. It is this writer who has sharpened and honed the craft of writing.

Indeed, the best writers take the time to learn and develop their craft — to learn their trade, just as painters, musicians, graphic designers, architects and others learn the technicalities of their profession. While it may be helpful to earn an MFA in creative writing or a degree in journalism, you can hone your skill as a writer without having to ante up such concentrated amounts of time or money.

Join a critique group.

This might be a group of five to ten writers who convene regularly in order to share and critique work. Find writers from whom you can learn.

Read books on writing.

Hang out at your local bookstore and page through the books about writing. Study these books. So many are filled with advice, exercises, and examples. One of my favorites is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.

Read well-written books with the eye of a writer.

Again, this is a way to learn. Note how the writer develops character, places backstory, employs foreshadowing, appeals to the senses. So many would-be authors have created intriguing plots and sketched out unique characters, but their writing lacks texture and pacing. Francine Prose’s book, Reading Like a Writer, offers invaluable suggestions on what to glean from others’ writing.

Work with an editor.

A good editor is indispensable. Look for a professional with editing experience in your genre.


Practice, practice, practice. Pianists, pitchers, public speakers, poets – these and others excel, because they practice everyday.

Attend writing conferences and workshops.

They abound. Keep your eye on writing events sponsored by community colleges and universities, by local writing groups, by bookstores. Poets & Writers magazine always includes a list of conferences being hosted around the country. These venues are where you also learn the business of writing – how to write query letters, book proposals, and story synopses, and how to conduct publicity and book marketing campaigns.

Where Writers Meet

Posted by on Sep 19, 2012 in Blog | 0 comments

Writing can be a lonely endeavor, no doubt about it. But there are venues that offer camaraderie and at the same time, help you sharpen your writing skills and even learn the business of writing, all essentials to being a well-published writer. These venues, including conferences, workshops, residencies and retreats, can be found in almost every state.

If you’re a serious writer, you’ll want to seriously considering attending at least one writing event a year. I met one of my closest writing buddies, found my agent, re-stoked my enthusiasm, and learned about the craft and business of writing at conferences and workshops. It’s always exciting to be around other writers. You can’t help but leave with a new idea, new knowledge, new inspiration – at least one golden nugget – that will help you in your writing life.


Writing conferences usually extend two to three days, though some are even longer. Conferences may offer concurrent sessions on the craft of writing, as well as on topics like how to write query letters and book proposals and conduct book marketing campaigns. Editors and agents also may be available for “pitch sessions.” If you have a project that you would like to pitch or get advice on, you can schedule a 15-minute meeting with an editor or agent. You may have to pay a nominal fee, say $15-20, or the session may be included in your conference fee. (This is how I found my agent. I had a meeting and brought in my book proposal; she signed me on as her author right there.)


Workshops tend to be more hands-on than conferences. They may include writing exercises and even assignments, as well as critique sessions. The Iowa Writer’s Workshop held each summer is one of the most prestigious in the country and requires writers to apply. Most workshops, however, simply require that you complete an application and pay the fee. Check with your local community colleges, libraries, writing groups, and bookstores to see if they are offering workshops.


Then there are writing retreats. These are where you hole up, preferably in some idyllic setting that would make Wordsworth drool, and write, write, write. You may share your writing with others, have a teacher or mentor offer guidance, or receive critiques from other writers.

Writers Colonies (a.k.a. Writers Residencies)

These are for the serious writer who can extract themselves from life for least one to two weeks, and sometimes as long as a month or two. If you’re interested in this type of experience, you’ll need to apply by submitting a work in progress. Spots are coveted. The organizations running the colonies are interested in supporting emerging talents and often fund the experience, which means that you may pay as little as $25-35 per day for room and board.

Buzz the 90-Mile Radius

Posted by on Sep 19, 2012 in Blog | 0 comments

When creating your book publicity campaign, in addition to tweeting, blogging, and conducting interviews, all of which can be done decked out in jammies, remember to buzz the 90-mile radius. No you can’t wear your comfy flannels for all of it, but it can be low budget, effective marketing.

Why 90 miles? Can’t give you a page from Science Magazine on that one. Let’s chalk it up to being doable. Round trip, it’s a 180-mile drive that most likely could be done in one day. For instance, from Tucson, where I sweat it out, Phoenix is 90 miles away, a metro area of over four million and a top media market. You can bet your fuzzy bunny slippers it’s worth the trek to do a TV interview!

Get out your map, your GPS, your telescope.

  • What cities and towns are within 90 miles?
  • What newspapers – online and in print – circulate there?
  • What libraries host authors?
  • What is the TV market for interviews?
  • What about the radio market?
  • What organizations might need a speaker?

To be extra efficient, schedule more than one event while you’re out and about – a morning TV interview and a talk to a lunch group, a meeting with a journalist and a radio show interview afterwards.

Wishful thinking? You won’t know until you give it a try.  And remember, before you leave, throw those jammies in the washing machine.