Publishing

Mastering The Art Of The Elevator Pitch by Adriana Bielkova

Posted by on Oct 14, 2014 in Publishing, Writing | 1 comment

Mastering The Art Of The Elevator Pitch by Adriana Bielkova

You have 30 seconds to sum up your book. Starting right now.  I’m not trying to scare you or stress you out. Summing up a book in less than a minute is hard, but is a vital skill every author should master. It’s called an elevator pitch and it does what it says on the tin. Literary agent Juliet Mushens sums it up perfectly in Get Your Book Fit. Imagine you get in a lift with an agent and you have 30 seconds to tell them about your book and, more importantly, persuade them that it’s awesome and that they should take it on. At CompletelyNovel, we’ve found that mastering the art of an elevator pitch is a valuable skill for authors – whether they are looking for an agent, or self-publishing. It can be condensed further to a tweet or a Facebook post; you can pitch it at networking events; and last but not least, you can use it in your query letters to agents or press. However, there’s more to an elevator pitch than just its length – it should also make people want to buy and read your book.   Find the theme of your book Let’s start with the key aspect of writing an elevator pitch – finding the theme of your book. After months or years of intense involvement with your book, it’s easy to lose sight of what its main message is. If you’re really struggling, try asking a friend to read your book – a fresh perspective can often help find the main message. It all boils down to finding the crux of your story – a phrase or a concept that is going to sell your book. For example, the theme of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist could be; ‘how much hardship can one person endure?’.   Flesh it out Now that you have that crucial concept that is central to your book, you need to flesh it out with more information. An elevator pitch is not the place to describe all the characters and subplots in your book. Use these questions to help you focus on what to include: What is the genre of your book? Who is the main character? When and where is the story set? What main challenges does the protagonist(s) have to overcome? Are there any other books, games or movies you would compare the book to? (optional) What makes your book unique? These are basic questions, but they’ll help you focus your pitch. After all, it’s not the brief appearance of the peculiar auntie in chapter two, but the troubled protagonist fighting injustice that is going to attract readers.   String it together Once you have answered these questions, you can weave them into a paragraph to describe the theme of the book. I’ll use the example of Oliver Twist again: Book: Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens Genre of the book: Social critique Main character: Oliver Twist, an orphan When and where is the story set: Primarily nineteenth-century London Main challenges the protagonist(s) have to overcome: A miserable existence in a workhouse; living with the undertaker; escaping to London; getting to know a group of young criminals led by Fagin that won’t let go of Oliver, even when caring Mr Brownlow steps in.   Stringing it together might look something like this: Oliver Twist is a critique of the hardships endured by orphans in nineteenth century London. For Oliver, neither living in a workhouse or a placement with an undertaker is a bed of roses. He escapes to London, where he is taken under the wings...

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5 Things I’ve Learned Between Deal and Debut by Andrea Hannah

Posted by on Oct 10, 2014 in Publishing, Writing, Young Adult | 1 comment

5 Things I’ve Learned Between Deal and Debut by Andrea Hannah

My debut novel, Of Scars and Stardust, has finally arrived in stores this week! It sold in July 2013, and let me tell you, it’s been an intense 1.25 years since that sale, filled with whiplash-inducing highs and the kind of lows I was sure didn’t exist after “the deal.” Here are some things that were true for me along the way: It’s all sorts of exciting the first time someone reviews your book. And then it’s not. I remember when my first review popped up on Goodreads back in the spring. Five stars! Woohoo! Such an adrenaline rush to see that someone had actually read my book and liked it. But as debut-day (D-Day?) creeps closer, and the reviews start flooding in, the whole thing loses some of its appeal. There comes a point where you have to be at peace with what you’ve written, and suddenly scanning the Internet for your book’s title becomes way less enticing when that happens. You will not be busy at all, and then all of a sudden you’re so busy you want to cry. This is what I’ve noticed about publishing so far: Absolutely nothing happens for months, and you feel like you’re slogging through mud. Then all of a sudden copy edits are on your doorstep and you have two weeks to finish them, and you’re moving at break-neck speed to meet that deadline. Months will go by before your book comes out, and then all of a sudden you have a million blog posts to finish and swag to mail out and giveaways to run and, and, and…forever and ever. Just go with it, and realize that it’s temporary and eventually you’ll be back in the mud hole again. A lot of things will not go as planned. In fact, most of them won’t. I had a specific plan for my cover reveal. My cover data got sent to media outlets a month earlier than was planned, so there was a lot of scrambling to find a new host. The awesome blurbs from VOYA and SLJ Teen didn’t come through in time to have them printed on the back cover of my book. Barnes and Noble got the shipment of my books in late, so some weren’t even in stores on release day, while Amazon shipped them out a week early and some people had read it before release day. It is what it is, and it’s okay. There’s nothing you can do about it besides focus on writing the Next Book. There will come a moment where you say, “What have I done?” I’m going to be honest, these past two weeks pre-debut have felt a lot like giving birth (metaphorically). The anxiety, the waiting, the “what-ifs” and the panic that threads through you when you realize you have no idea what you’re doing and you’re not at all prepared for this and everyone is about to see your heart’s work and you stop and ask yourself if you’ve made a terrible mistake. There has been a flood of anxiety and sleepless nights and nitpicking at things I should have done differently. Apparently, this happens to a lot of authors, from what I’ve been told. It’s normal to feel so overwhelmed by this huge life change, this thing that you’ve been waiting and wishing for. Just go with it. It’ll lighten up after release day actually happens. Promise. You will feel more love than you ever thought possible. In the end, all of the crazy-making circumstances and curveballs are worth it. I will tell you, this book has...

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Brand Names, Trademarks, and Conundrums by Pema Donyo

Posted by on Oct 8, 2014 in Publishing, Writing | 0 comments

Brand Names, Trademarks, and Conundrums by Pema Donyo

Brand names, trademarks, and contemporary conundrums by Pema Donyo For realistic fiction writers, brand names tend to slip into our writing. While editing my YA contemporary thriller and currently my NA contemporary romance, I ran into issues with brand names. Was I allowed to use them? Could I really be sued? After research into how to use brand names in fiction, I’ve compiled five general guidelines for using trademarks. Note that the tips below aren’t hard and fast rules, but they should be taken into consideration when writing your next contemporary piece. (1) Brand names should never be mentioned in a negative light. I’m not even talking about someone buying a hamburger from Burger King and choking on it. Any sort of negative description associated with a trademarked item will not be appreciated by the company. When brand names are mentioned in literature, it should add something to the story. Save your complaints about the item for a well-written letter to the company, not for malicious intent in your story. If you do want to add a dimension of realism and admit a certain chain’s pizza tastes like cardboard, this brings us to tip #2… (2) Fake brands should be used to represent real ones. It’s easy to replace names. Smoothie Queen and Palace of Pizza are two examples of brand name replacements. These fictional titles come without trademark infringements or worries over being sued. Readers are intelligent. They can figure out what a company resembles even without the official title. (3) Don’t write falsely about the brand names you do use. If it’s completely unavoidable – you just HAVE to use Glad or Tupperware – make sure you’re using the right brand name for the right product. Don’t write “Domino’s hamburgers” or “Starbucks pizza”. Even if the brand names produce similar products, this could be considered a trademark infringement. Trademark infringement is the unauthorized use of a name that creates confusion regarding similar products. Keep tabs on whether or not you’re using the brand name correctly. (4) But truthfully, most of the time you don’t need a brand name. You can use a water bottle instead of Arrowhead, or a tissue instead of Kleenex. As stated earlier, the brand name should add something to the story. If she’s ordering a certain drink specific to only Starbucks, that’s fine. But if she’s asking someone to pass her a Pop-Secret bag of popcorn, it’s a little unnecessary. (5) The sheer volume of media references out there means that you likely won’t be sued for using a brand name, but do use common sense. Brand names are mainly issues for authors with high profiles, which is why many books feature fictional brand names rather than the real ones. But even if you’re not J.K. Rowling or Meg Cabot, you still shouldn’t put the brand name in the title or cover. Exercise caution when writing about trademarked items, no matter how large your reader audience may be. While brand names are never necessary for a story’s plot to move forward, they are a nice (and realistic) addition to any contemporary story. I’d love to read your opinions on using brand names in fiction as well. Feel free to add your own tips on using trademarks in the comments below. About The Author: Pema Donyo Pema Donyo is the author of The Innocent Assassins and One Last Letter. She is also a coffee-fueled college student by day and a creative writer by night. As a rising sophomore at Claremont McKenna, she’s still working on mastering that delicate balance between finishing homework, meeting publisher...

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Pen & Muse Press Summer School 2014 Syllabus

Posted by on Aug 4, 2014 in Pen and Muse news, Pen and Muse Summer School, Publishing, Writing | 1 comment

Pen & Muse Press Summer School 2014 Syllabus

Welcome to the Pen & Muse Press Annual Summer school! We’re here during the summer month of August to teach writers about their craft. We’ll be covering everything from writing to editing to marketing! You can spy last year’s lineup here as well as go through all of those courses. This year is so exciting because of new categories, but we’ve got a more diverse lineup consisting of agents, editors, writers, and more. Pen & Muse Press Summer School 2014 Schedule: Alternative Types of Writing – Week 1 The Artistry of Noveling – Week 2 Editing and Formatting Wizardry – Week 3 The Artistry of Marketing – Week 4 Syllabus and Contributors Alternative Types of Writing Though noveling is a large part of what us authors do, there are many other forms of writing out there that can be just as successful and rewarding. Our experts are here to share alternative types of writing with you and help share how-to for when you’re ready to embark on a new writing journey. So You Wanna Make a Webcomic by Ron Tucker Writing Serials by Jinsey Reese Screenwriting by Tellulah Darling Freebie: What the hell is a Blovel? (and worksheet to start your own) by Jolene Haley   The Artistry of Noveling What makes a novel? We’ll introduce you to tricks and tips, important concepts, and key tools to successfully write a novel. It doesn’t matter if you’re on your first page or your third novel, we are here to help you plot, plan, and successfully finish! 5 Improv Theater Lessons for Characterization by Jennifer Brinkmeyer Craft Your Way – With Layers, Without Rules by Jessica Park How to Write Believable Characters by Julia Weber Campfire Tales – a Unique Method for Encapsulating Your Story / Creating Your Synopsis by Eddie Louise Keeping Art and Heart in the Market by Emily Murdoch First Five Words – Getting Your Opening Up to Par by Riki Cleveland Innovation in Writing by Amy Joy Lutchen Creating 3 Dimensional Characters by Rebecca Rogers   Editing and Formatting Wizardry Editing and formatting don’t have to be a web of confusion. Whether you are nearing the end of your novel, are stuck editing a manuscript, or you’re not exactly sure what you need to do to edit your manuscript, we are here to help! Every finished book MUST be edited in order to shine. Our experts are here to help you navigate any novel and aid you to edit like a wizard! To Scrivener or Not to Scrivener by Sam Hager Copy Editing Wizardry Tricks by Helen Boswell Formatting Tips & Tricks by Amy Kessler How to Do Line Editing (The Six People You Need To Be When Line Editing Your Novel)  by JC Lillis Revision Tips by Kate Brauning How To Trim Words From Your Manuscript by Janice Hardy Freebie: Scrivener Plotting Template by Kristen Jett   The Artistry of Marketing Many authors argue that marketing is one of the toughest things about being an author. But it doesn’t have to be confusing. Learn how to market yourself as an author, market your novels, establish a target audience, and network to your advantage. Social Media Marketing Etiquette by Sarah Raasch What an Acquisitions Editor Looks For in a Pitch by Marisa Fuller The Importance of Having a Good Website (and What You Should Have On It) by Tyler Snell Freebie:  Author Website Checklist by Kristen Jett   How do you participate? Read the blog posts and dare to learn something new about writing, marketing, editing, and your craft! Got questions? Ask them in the comments portion of each post. Enjoy Pen & Muse’s Summer School. Thank You Pen...

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How To Format Your Manuscript

Posted by on Jun 27, 2014 in How To, Publishing, Writing | 0 comments

How To Format Your Manuscript

I was recently helping a friend format his manuscript. He’d queried and gotten a full request. Exciting, right? Yes! However, he was worried because he wasn’t sure how to properly format his manuscript. If you think about it, being turned down for representation or publication over a sloppy looking manuscript is a bit silly, isn’t it? Thankfully his manuscript already looked great, I only had to add on finishing touches, but it got me thinking that I should write a post about this. There are several different things you can do with your manuscript when you are finished. Obviously, you can hide it in a drawer for years (but where’s the fun in that?). You can self publish it. Or you can try to have it traditionally published. If you want to go the latter route, you will need to ensure that your final product is ready and presentable for publishers and agents. After all, someone wont want to buy your car if it’s missing wheels and half of it’s paint, right? (There I go with car analogies again.) My point is, your manuscript is your product and you would never try to sell an unfinished product to someone right? Presenting a sloppy or unpolished manuscript to a publisher or an agent may get you turned away. Exactly how are you supposed to format your manuscript? There is a little debate on this subject, such as which font to use (Time New Roman? Courier?) or how large the margins should be (an inch? 1.5 inches?). Otherwise, for the most part, the general guidelines for manuscript formatting are usually pretty consistent. If you are submitting your manuscript for representation or publication, the very best advice I can give you is to look at the publisher or agency submission guidelines. Some will have specific preferences, and if they do, follow them. If the publisher or agency you are submitting to does not list preferences, then I’d say you’re safe to use these guidelines. General Manuscript Formatting Guidelines Title page – Your manuscript needs a title page. It should contain important information such as your name, your contact information (address, phone, and email address), manuscript title, and word count. If you have an agent, be sure to include this information as well. Your manuscript name should be centered and just above the middle of the page. Below it should be the word “by” and then below that should be your name. All should be centered. Left justified – In case you had the urge to not do this and center your entire 100k word novel…just don’t. Left justify it and call it a day Double space – That’s right folks. Double space your manuscript. Font – Here is where there is a little debate. Some people say Times New Roman. Others swear by Courier. I always use Times New Roman. There usually isn’t debate over font size. Stick to size 12. Font effects – Just say no. I know what you’re thinking. This is still my answer even if your font effect is “really, really cool.” Background – No fancy pants backgrounds. Leave it white. Indent – Indent the first line of each paragraph, 5 pt (five spaces). You can set your document to automatically do this. If you are using Microsoft Word, you would select paragraph, indentation, special, first line, .5. Header – Put on at the top right of each page (except your cover page). This should include your name, your manuscript name, and page number. Some people argue top left hand side. Check the submission guidelines for clarification if...

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Getting Advance Review Copies in the Hands of Readers by Mark Matthews

Posted by on Jun 16, 2014 in Marketing and Branding, Publishing, Writing | 0 comments

Getting Advance Review Copies in the Hands of Readers by Mark Matthews

Getting Advance Review Copies in the Hands of Readers Have a handful of book blurbs ready to go before your book is published. Reviews are the marshmallow pieces in your lucky charms. The toy in your crackerjacks. Reviews don’t just sell books and entice readers, a five-star constellation can also feed the ego, or a lone star in the sky can motivate you out of spite. Seeing a new review appear on your amazon page is proof of life, letting you know your book is alive and not just gathering digital dust. Getting reviews starts way before your book is published. Publishers know this so pay hundreds of dollars to give their books away to reviewers on sites like Netgalley. It’s like the first shot of heroin you get from the drug dealer. “Here you go, first one’s free. Go tell your friends how good my stuff is.” The good news is, like most things publishers do, you can do all of this yourself with some time and perseverance. There is no reason you should have a book published without a handful of book blurbs and reviews ready to go. Advance reviews create hype, allow you to populate your amazon page as soon as it goes on sale, and gives it some credibility. I’ve been slinging advance copies of my upcoming release MILK-BLOOD the last few days, and came up with some tips. Of course, everything you hear could be wrong and based on my own insanity. But listen anyways. Some Do’s and Don’ts on handing out ARCs Do tons of research. Your target audience should be readers and authors in your genre, as well as bloggers who may cover the same subject of your book. Your main character is a tattoo artist? Look for tattoo bloggers. Do take a liberal stance in giving out ARCs. You’re better off giving away too many than too few. Stop worrying about losing sales. Someone’s reading your book, with a vague promise to tell their friends how good your stuff is. Do cartwheels. Once it’s written, your book is both product and marketing tool. Do approach authors who are in your genre, and as with all approaches, get to know them. Don’t just send a form letter where you plop their name on top. Explain why you are reaching out to them and why they’re a good fit, and prove that you know what they write. In this day and age, you can reach most any author. (Unless you tried and now have a restraining order. My apologies to Ms. Gillian Flynn). Everyone’s got either a blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, or a Goodreads profile. Don’t expect them all to say yes. Not even close. Most will not. Be gracious even for a response back. The beautiful thing about social media is it connects reader to writer like no time before, but that doesn’t mean they owe you a darn thing. Do offer your ARCs on Goodreads groups that match your genre. Of course, mingle in the group first. If you are just popping in to try and ‘use’ the readers, then you may be fought off like a foreign invading agent. Do appreciate those who agree to accept your ARC and give it a look. They are doing you a favor. Be kind, be grateful. Of course, this should come natural, if not, you may be an ass-hat. Remember, they are giving you their time. To be read by someone is one of the greatest gifts they can give you. They are serving you by accepting an ARC, you...

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