Tag Archives: your novel

Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension”, part 33: Alternatives

Welcome back! For the rest of this year we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison’s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read and learn from all the fabulous segments from 2013-2015 by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on my drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month thirty-three:

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 33: Alternatives

When I began writing Mother Earth Father Sky way back in the 1970s, options for publication were pretty much the following. You could submit your novel directly to a small publisher or university press. You could find an agent who would begin the submission process to larger publishing houses. You could pay big bucks to a vanity press to publish the book. You could self-publish, which would still cost thousands and pretty much relegate your novel to the dreaded “ignored” category. Ignored by bookstores, ignored by reviewers, ignored by readers.

Today, with the advent of ebooks and print-on-demand, self-publishing carries no loss of prestige, and it doesn’t break the author’s budget.

I’m not an expert at self-publishing because I haven’t  gone that route yet. I believe someday I will, but right now I have too many projects on my desk to pursue that possibility. So this post is not about those steps of pursuit. You can find many self-publishing experts on line. I recommend literary agent Rachelle Gardner’s book, which will walk you through the decision process. How Do I Decide? Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing (A Field Guide for Authors) is available as an ebook through Amazon for $2.99. Definitely worth the price!

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Meanwhile, let’s talk about the positives and negatives of self-publishing.

Positive aspects:

1. You are in control. You decide what gets edited out of your novel and what you want to leave in. You control cover art. You control font choices. You control length.

2. You decide what time of year to publish your book. If you want to bring it out in time for Christmas, you can. If you want to arrange publication according to your personal schedule,  you can. You’re not in lockstep with the publishers’ other books, waiting your turn.

3. You can keep your novel in print as long as you want. Publishers usually “retire” in-print novels, many times it’s after only a few months on bookstore shelves.

4. Once you pay the costs, you don’t have to split the profits with a publisher.

Of course, there are negative aspects:

1. You pay. If your novel comes out as an ebook, you might pay between $100 and $300 to have your manuscript formatted. Hard copy books are of course more expensive, but print-on-demand allows those costs to come to the author in a more gradual way. You may decide to hire an editor to vet your work before you publish it. Editing costs can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars, but the choice is up to you. I do recommend an editor, not only for grammar, spelling, and typos, but for content. You want your novel to be the best possible. Otherwise, you may lose your readership for a second book.

2. You must find your own cover art and pay the artist.

3. You may have to acquire more “techie” skills to ready your manuscript for ebook formatting.

4. You must do your own PR work. In the current publishing climate, that’s also true with many commercial publishers. So this isn’t as much of a deterrent as it used to be. Still, you can’t sit back and expect someone else to research the market for you or find bookstores willing to carry your novel.

5. Most national reviewers don’t review self-published novels. On the local scene, though, many reviewers do. It’s your job to find them.

The most important thing for a writer with a completed first novel to know is that self-publishing exists as a viable option. You do not ruin your career if you decide to self-publish. You’re simply getting your novel out there to an audience.

Have you considered or pursued self-publishing? Tell us your experience!

Strength to your pen!

Sue

*Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two bestselling Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy – all of which went digital in May 2013. She also wrote a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you to come back November 26, 2015, for part 34.

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Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension”, part 32: Let Me Tell You About My Book…

Welcome back! For the rest of this year we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison’s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read and learn from all the fabulous segments from 2013-2015 by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on my drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month thirty-two:

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 32: Let Me Tell You About My Book…

The subtitle for this post is “The Query as a Sales Tool,” so I’ll begin the boring way – with a definition. A query is a business letter, sent to an editor, agent or publishing house, as a sales tool to generate interest in possible publication or representation of a writing project. 

That’s it. The query is a sales tool, and you – the writer – are trying to sell your novel, just like Walmart sells dog sweaters and J.C. Penney sells shirts.

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Years ago, my husband and I attended a company Christmas party. I knew very few people there, and I’m not great at small talk. I was standing alone when a woman came up and started a conversation. After a few minutes, she asked me what I did. I mentioned that I was writing a novel.

Her reply went something like this: “Hmmm. Well. I guess I’d better go look for my husband.” And off she went.

I was puzzled by her reaction, but now, years later, I understand. Hearing about other people’s books can be a trying and even boring experience, and thus we have a gem of knowledge to guide novelists both in casual conversation and in query letters. Be quick about it!

During my writing life, I have written some of the most terrible query letters out there, so I’m not going to sit here, all high and mighty, and only tell you how to write one. I’m going to tell you how NOT to write a query letter.

1.      Do NOT scribble a casual note.

DO write a polite business letter. If you’ve never written a business letter before, you can find templates online that will give you the needed parameters.

2.      Do NOT start your letter with “To whom it may concern:”

DO begin with a salutation that is personalized with the agent’s or editor’s name.

3.     Do NOT begin with ‘I have written a novel.” Of course you have. That is exactly why you sent the query letter, and the agent or editor knows that.

DO begin your letter with your strongest sales tool. The first point of your query letter should be to “hook” or entice the agent or editor to read the rest of the letter. Your hook should be precise and quick, one or two sentences. The hook might be the presentation of the protagonist of your novel. It might be the location or the plot. It might be something unusual that you have experienced or accomplished which relates to the reason you wrote the novel. It might be that you have met the agent/editor at a conference or in an elevator, and he or she expressed interest in your work.

4.      Do NOT write multiple paragraphs describing your plot and characters.

DO write one paragraph about the book in which you give a brief overview of the main character (or two), his or her problem, and the setting or time period.

5.      Do NOT criticize another author’s work.

DO cite two or three other published novels that are similar to yours, and then mention what will make your novel stand out to readers of those novels and that genre.

6.      Do NOT resort to hyperbole. One way to turn off any agent or editor is to guarantee sales in the millions or the advent of an instant New York Times Bestseller.

DO give facts. “More than 2,000,000 people in North America enjoy the hobby of knitting.” (Which may be potential readers for your novel about a group of knitters!)

7.      Do NOT assume the agent or editor knows who you are, even if you are famous.

DO write a concise biography. This isn’t a resume. No need to go on and on about your education or job history unless that information is connected to your novel. If you have writing credits, mention that. If not, mention anything pertaining to writing – a writers’ group, a critique group, a writers’ workshop you’ve attended. Read the brief writer bios on the backs or jackets of published novels to get an idea of what will work for you.  However, be aware that the bios on books are written in third person. For your query letter, your bio should be written in first person.  (As in, “I make my living as a fisherman in the Bering Sea.”)

8.     Do NOT forget contact details.

DO include your street address, email address, and phone number on your query letter. I usually include those details in two places, at the heading of the letter (even if it is an email) and under my name at the bottom of the letter.

9.      Do NOT write one-size-fits-all queries.

DO enough research to know something about the agent or editor you are contacting.  For example, for an agent who is a dog-lover, you might mention in your bio, “I am the proud owner of a very spoiled schnauzer.” The personal touch reminds the agent or the editor that you are a real person, with joys and hopes and goals.

10.    Do NOT  be over-effusive as you end your letter.

Do be polite. I often end a query by writing, “May I send you sample pages and a synopsis? I look forward to hearing from you.” After that, it’s simply, “Sincerely,”

11.     Do NOT  wait overly long for an answer.  If you haven’t heard from an agent in a couple months, you can assume your query was rejected.

DO send multiple queries. The very good news for writers today is that the acceptable practice is to write and send multiple queries. Keep a notebook about where and when you sent queries, and if you received an answer.  Be sure to follow the guidelines for each agent/editor/publishing house. That can make all the difference between acceptance and rejection.

12.     Do NOT write a multi-page query. Although this post is quite lengthy, please remember that query letters should not be.

Do keep your letter to one page if possible, and that page should be well-edited. No typos, no spelling errors, no grammatical mistakes. Use a normal font that is easy to read. No fancy stuff, even if your novel is set in Victorian England. If the agent or editor/publishing house requests a hardcopy query, use white or cream good quality paper. Again, nothing fancy.

Good luck, and remember, rejection is part of the game. Many great novels have never reached their audience because the novelist gave up after a few rejections. A rejection letter with comments is almost as good as a request for sample pages. Agents are extremely busy, and any comment or suggestion means your query intrigued them even if they rejected it.

Next month we’ll address self-publishing — Pros and Cons. Meanwhile,  Strength to your pen!

Sue

 *Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two bestselling Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy – all of which went digital in May 2013. She also wrote a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you to come back October 22, 2015, for part 33.

 

Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension” – part 25: The End

Welcome back! Over the next several more months we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison’s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read all the segments by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on the drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month twenty-five:

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 25: The End

You’ve worked so hard writing the first draft of your novel, and finally, finally, there you are — one last chapter left to go. After a marathon that has required every ounce of your strength and endurance, you can see the finish line.

You gulp in a deep breath, and, on a huge burst of adrenalin, you tie up remaining threads of the plot and proudly type those two words you have been striving toward throughout the whole, long process:

THE END

TaDa!! Celebrate!!

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I hate to burst your balloons, but, before you celebrate, you need to answer a few questions. If you answer “yes,” then you really have finished your first draft. If you answer “no,” you need to go back and work on those last few chapters. Groan!

Don’t get discouraged. Even if you need to rewrite, you can handle it. After all, you’ve already written hundreds of pages. This will be easy-peasy. Well, almost easy-peasy.

Let’s dive into those Before-You-Celebrate questions:

1. Last month we talked about the climax of your novel. Does your final page take place only a chapter or two after the climax?  Yes? Then hooray! If not,  you may need to shorten this after-climax portion. You risk losing your readers’ attention if you prolong the unwinding that occurs after the novel’s emotional high.

2. In your excitement at nearing the end of your novel, have you continued to show your scenes rather than tell them to the reader? It’s so tempting to rush through that last chapter.

3. Did you avoid the classic error of allowing one of your characters to indulge in a long-winded monologue to tie up any loose ends? Good! Then celebrate. If not, rewrite so that some of the information is doled out in a short scene or two, and any necessary monologue is brief!

4. And by the way, did you tie up all those loose ends? If you are planning a sequel, then a few loose ends are fine! If not, you need to weave them into the natural progression and outcome of your storyline.

5. Did you refuse to end your novel with a “Deus ex machina” scene? In ancient Greek plays, the endings were often based around a Greek god coming down in a “machine” (a basket hooked to a pulley system) to “magic” away all the problems. Don’t allow a contrived ending to spoil your previous hard work.

All right. Now, are all your answers YES? Hooray!! Then Celebrate! (And next month, we’ll talk about second drafts. Mwahahaha….)

Tell me about your first draft experience. Do you enjoy writing first drafts or is that the most difficult part of the process for you?

Strength to your pen!

Sue

*Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two bestselling Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy – all of which went digital in May 2013. She also wrote a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you to come back March 26, 2015 for part 26.