Here’s a tough-love news flash: To Get Published, You Need to Beat the Competition! It’s a fundamental problem I see in a lot of aspiring, emerging writers. First, their work is pretty good. Second, their work isn’t good enough. Why not? Well, it isn’t original or appealing enough to draw a reader away from other well-known books & authors already existing and successful in your field or genre. You need to recognize and try to beat the competition. To succeed, your work has to be appealing enough to make someone who doesn’t know you from Adam (or Eve) grab their wallet (or metaphysical wallet ofRead More →

“I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words Bother me.” – A.A. Milne, in Winnie-the-Pooh Short words and phrases are effective. Whether it’s a query letter to an agent, or a review blurb excerpt, keep it short and sweet, and you’ll impress more than you would with a long version. Why is the short pitch so effective? Because an appealing, succinct summary of a work is a likely indicator of the nature of the work itself: good focus, clear communication, and good storytelling – all of which we want and expect in our reading materials, whether for pleasure or profession. This isRead More →

“If you can’t describe a book in one or two pithy sentences that would make you or my mother want to read it, then of course you can’t sell it.” — Michael Korda, editor-in-chief, Simon & Schuster, quoted in the Wall Street Journal, June 26, 1984 We’ve talked about pitching fiction. Well, nonfiction is pitched in a similar way — in 3–4 sentences — especially narrative nonfiction. (What is narrative nonfiction? It’s nonfiction with lots of storytelling and a narrator . . . hence the term. It brings the subject to the personal level; you look over the shoulder of the narrator who discovers orRead More →

An author platform. To pitch a nonfiction book to a major publisher, you need one. Literary agents want you to have one. Publishers want you to have one. But what are author platforms and what do they do? Let’s tackle the second part of that: what do they do? Think of passing by a room in a hotel convention center with an open door. You peek in and see a speaker up on a platform, ready to speak to a big crowd of people, seated and ready to listen. What’s your impression of that person and their influence? A person on a platform, speaking toRead More →

A query letter for a novel must be short. Ideally, just one page. It’s what you send as a first contact to a literary agent (sometimes directly to an editor), often as an email. You hope they will open it, scan it, be intrigued very quickly (and impressed by your writing on that one page), and utter the magic words: “Send me more.” To succeed, you must sum up your opus in just a paltry few sentences. Perhaps as few as three. Maybe a few more if they’re good and short and compelling. (Compelling not to you but to the busy agent or editor, sittingRead More →