Saturday, May 31, 2008

Mysteries and Thrillers, the state of the MARKET

The Sisters in Crime blog has an interesting four-part series on the state of the mystery/thriller market. The writers visited a number of major publishers, agents, and publicists and asked questions about the markets and how to promote and build a career.

Most of the information is about the mystery/thriller market, but the blogs are well worth any writer's reading for the information about promotion and building careers.

The entries are in the final days of May.

Here's the link:

Monday, May 19, 2008

Writers and Bad Weather

Are you, as a writer, ready for bad weather?

Preparing for bad weather can be as simple as having a storm alert radio that will cut on, if dangerous weather approaches, so you can shut down that computer before lightning fries it, then you can seek shelter. The storm alert radio also doesn't interfere with writing like a regular radio for those of us who like to work in quiet.

Is your computer plugged into an alternate power source (APS) so it won't be damaged or your current work lost if the power goes out?

Most alternate power source makers claim an APS with a surge protector will protect your computer and peripherals from lightning, but nothing will protect electronics from a close lightning hit. A good friend lost everything when lightning hit a transformer over a block away, and he had high-end surge protectors and an APS system.

The safest thing to do is unplug everything, including the APS.

Also remember to unplug your modem from the electricity and your computer. Dial-up modems are particularly prone to lightning. A cable modem is supposed to be much safer, but I err on the side of paranoia and unplug mine.

If you have a laptop as well as a desktop, you need to keep it charged then unplug it, as well, when a storm comes. If you want to keep working through bad weather, remember to save a copy of your work to a flash disk, floppy, or whatever to move your work to your laptop so you can continue to work.

Weather preparation isn't just for a short summer or winter storm. It's for major disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, and wild fires. Always have a back-up copy of all your works in another location, or, better yet, several locations.

In the days before I wrote by computer, I had paper copies of my books at my home, my mom's beach house and my brother's house near Charlotte. Despite being in different parts of the state, all three homes were damaged by Hurricane Hugo, but the manuscripts stayed safe. That experience has reaffirmed my determination to keep copies of my manuscripts and important papers elsewhere.

These days, I also keep a flash disk copy of my books in my safety deposit box at the bank so I can keep my updates recent. A flash disk or drive, if you're not familiar with the term, is one of those storage units you plug directly into your USB or Firewire connection on your computer or iPod.

It's always a good idea to have an emergency bag or briefcase for your writing partially packed and ready to go in case you need to get out fast because of an approaching hurricane or wild fire. Things to keep in this bag include a power plug for your laptop and an updated flash drive. Also include copies of current book contracts as well as notes, etc., of what you are working with at the time.

This bag is also a good place to store that copy of your house and car insurance, pictures of your valuables, etc., in case disaster strikes. Also include a CD with copies of your favorite family pictures, etc., in case the worst happens, and there's no home to return to.

Make a list of the last minute things you will need to pack and stick that in the front of the bag. When emergencies happen, we tend to forget the most basic things so that list will be well worth the time.

NOTE: Do you have emergency suggestions for other writers? Please let us know.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Writing a Book Pitch for a Query

Agent Kristin Nelson has an interesting series of blogs (starting April 25 through May 6th) on creating the pitch paragraph or paragraphs about your book for a query letter.

She shows how to discover what the plot catalyst is in your novel, then how to build your pitch around that catalyst using plot, character, background, or a combination of these elements.

Her blog is located here:

We both believe that the catalyst moment is the most important focus for creating either a pitch or a blurb for your book, but my method differs a bit. To read my article on creating a blurb or a query pitch, go to and read my articles on writing blurbs and query letters.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Buy an agent or editor's time for charity

Author Brenda Novak is holding her annual fundraiser for diabetes research. Many of the items are for readers, but writers have some interesting items to look at, as well.

Agents and editors are auctioning off their time to critique parts of your manuscript, read your proposal (partial) with a quick turnaround time, or critique your proposal (partial). Most of the agents/editors are in the romance market, but some also handle other genre and nonfiction.

The prices are mindboggling for those of us with smaller incomes, but the chance to get a major agent/editor to help you polish your book/proposal, or have an agent/editor look at your work when they normally don't read slush pile is priceless.

The auction is here: To find the items of interest to writers, look at the links on the left side.

Here is a way to get the most out of your money.

First, copy and paste the page/pages of agents/editors onto a blank text document.

At the top, list the date you are doing this and note the number of agents/editors listed (number is on top of the page) so you can refer back to that number in case more items are offered.

Now, go through and delete the items you have no interest in. This would include Harlequin editors if your market isn't Harlequin, etc.

Once this is done, look over the agents/editors to find names/publishers you already know that handle the market you are interested in. Highlight those in some manner. Color fonts or bold text works well.

Is there any agent/editor there who is your dream agent/editor for your manuscript? If so, highlight them with an asterisk or something else.

Agents/editors offer either a fast read and response to your full manuscript/partial/or query, or they offer an evaluation of your manuscript/partial/query. Unless the agent/editor is your dream agent/editor, delete those items that only offer a fast response, not an evaluation.

An evaluation helps you make your book marketable so even if that agent/editor isn't interested, you will gain something more than a fast yes or no. Also, many of these editors/agents will look at your partial or query for free with a longer waiting period.

The items you've highlighted so far are of first interest.

The editors/agents/publishers you aren't familiar with will require research to find out their specialties.

One place to research agents is Publishers Marketplace

You can also Google names. Be sure to put the editor/agent's name in quotes, for example "Kristine Nelson," so that the results only include both names.

If you are a member of RWA, you may also be able to research agents and editors at the RWA site in their market information.

After this research, you will now have the information you need to make the perfect choice for your bids.

If you are just starting in your writing or your craft isn't quite there yet, writers who do critiques may be a better deal for your money. Be sure to pick authors in your own market niche. Look to see if they have any editorial or teaching experience. Those that do may be your best bet for quality feedback.

I can't suggest a price range for items. Only you can make that determination, but remember that you only have one shot at getting that book accepted by a great agent or editor so you are improving your chances of success by having a professional help you polish your work.

At least a portion of this cost may also be used as a tax write-off. I stress "may" since I'm not a tax expert, and I'm not certain if this charity is listed as such by your state or the feds.

Good hunting for that perfect item.

HAVE A WRITING QUESTION? Ask the question at my blog or via email at


My mom is out of the hospital and on the way to recovery, but I'm appallingly behind in all aspects of my writing and life so my blog posts will be sporadic in the coming weeks.

Please join my Yahoogroups to receive blog entries as I post them. To join, send a blank email to .