FETCHING ENDORSEMENTS:

A necessary task most writers dread.

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Me? Ask for a greedy little book blurb? A wave of terror crashes over you as you sit alone in your comfy writer attire (i.e. robe, sweats, tutu, or whatever flips your chicken) researching fellow notables in your field and then tossing back your third cup of joe.

Most writers are private individuals, creating alternate worlds for others to enjoy without the pressure of being in the spotlight. However, once a book is ready for publication, the game changes.

The outer rim of the radiant publisher’s spotlight stretches across your keyboard, casting its warmth on the task at hand: IT’S ENDORSEMENT TIME!

You shrivel in your seat and reluctantly set up a list of potentials, wondering if your book is worth their valuable time.

Let’s face it, asking for blurbs isn’t the most joyous task in a writer’s career, but every writer has to do it. So suck it up, and get to work.  Perhaps these tips might ease you into this unpleasant but essential duty:

Start local. Try friends first. Yes, anyone can blurb if they enjoy your writing.

If you don’t have writerish friends, contact writers whose books are of a similar flavor. Don’t ask a romance writer to blurb if you’re publishing science fiction. Pursue authors with works that you’ve, in fact, read and adored. Their fans would potentially like your work as well.

Now that you’ve established your fave writers, it’s time to get in touch with them. Most writers have a personal website with a contact form or an email address available to contact the author directly. If that information is unavailable, Twitter or Facebook might be another point of contact.  If all else fails, check www.publishersmarketplace.com for the author’s agent information and contact their agent to see if they will put you in touch with the writer.

MUY IMPORTANTE: When you reach out to a notable for a blurb, don’t beg, butter, or stalk. Ask them—once. Every writer has been in this uncomfortable spot and has had to ask other authors the flattering but time-consuming question. We all understand what the process entails. Though some genuine flattery will get you far, don’t overserve your request with their personal scoop you’ve freshly spooned from the internet. Remember, you’re contacting a stranger. With that kind of information, you’ll certainly be serving it with stalker cherry on top. Simply let him or her know that you’ve read their work, and you hold it in high regard, and keep it professional.

Blurb request multiple writers. It’s the same mindset of querying agents. You’ve researched them, formulated your favorites, and sent out numerous letters, all for different reasons. The same should apply to your blurb requests.

You will get rejections along the way. Don’t take them personally. It’s all subjective, remember? Nothing is worse than asking why they’ve rejected you. JUST DON’T. There are multitudes of reasons for their decline, but asking “why” isn’t going to change their mind. Be polite. Thank them for their time and move on.

Lastly, do keep sending requests until you receive a handful of endorsements for your book. Before long, your book will be published, and you’ll be fortunate enough to be reading and blurbing for others.  Please let the vulnerability of the blurbing process linger as you pay it forward, and never forget the authors who gave up their precious time to give your work a chance.

WRITER’S BLOCK? All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

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If you’re a writer, it’s inevitable that you’ve experienced a condition associated with the above-written words.

No, you are not psycho like Jack Torrance.  Well, maybe minutely off (sorry, couldn’t resist). Because, well, you are a writer, and we’re all a little odd. It is what gives us the ability to entertain, bringing joy to readers and authors, alike. But one thing is certain, at some point in your career, you will suffer from a nasty case of normalcy, a.k.a.writer’s block. Not optimal for production, but it happens all of us.

Writer’s block: An infection causing your prose to turn to slop and your creative bone density to decline at an abhorring rate.

You slip under the covers, close your eyes, hoping your dreams will cure it, only to waken from beneath the cloak of a dreamless night. Shit. Frightfully twisting your hair into a knot, you focus on that single web strand dangling and swaying from your ceiling, wondering where the spider went.

Ears tuning into your surroundings, honing in on the sound of your laptop’s deliberate hum from the desk in the corner, taunting you, daring you to get out of bed and open it. And so you do. However, instead of launching your word processor, you innocently click open your browser and find yourself here.

My apologies. Diagnosis: WRITER’S BLOCK! 

So now that you’re here, and you know what you’re dealing with, let’s talk about why this common writing affliction is ravaging your creative juices and commandeering your fingertips, typing only crap or nothing at all.

Potential causes:

  • Timing: Perhaps your ideas are only half-baked and you need a little more time to work them out before writing them down.
  • Perfectionism: Your prose needs to be perfect before your fingertips touch a keyboard. (If you’re going for perfect, you’ll never begin.)
  • Fear: Many writers frequently struggle with the fear of putting themselves out there for everyone to critique. (Akin to leading a boardroom meeting in your tighty-whities or itty-bitty bikini.)

How do you rid yourself of this creative constipation?

Ahem…a few ideas:

  • Get out of the house. Get some fresh air for fuck’s sake. You’re a writer, not a hermit. (I prefer running while listening to music.)
  • Eliminate distractions (My crutch: Twitter. I’ve limited myself to checking it only three times during the day and turned off notifications on my iPhone.)
  • Create a routine. (I have a set time that I sit down to write daily.)
  • Brew some coffee. (Step and repeat.)
  • Brainstorm ideas in short sentences. (Not the word magnets on your fridge.)
  • Do something to get your blood flowing. (As I mentioned, I prefer running. It clears my mind.)
  • Change your environment. (Pull up a chair under a tree or go to a coffee shop in another neighborhood if the weather doesn’t cooperate.)
  • Read a book. (I read a shit-ton of books, and give credit to every author that’s spawned another idea, most assuredly improving my writing skills.)
  • Write some fun quotes and post them to Twitter for nearly instantaneous feel-good affirmation. (Creating poetry and short stories are great, too. They begin the creative process with an added bonus of a shorter time commitment.)
  • Create something other than words. (I paint canvases in acrylics, but there are other creative outlets, like creating short movies, drawing, photography, etc.)
  • Listen to music. (Listen to all different genres while you create. It’s amazing what memories and emotions music conjures up in your mind. Music sets the stage for a movie, so why not your prose?)
  • Spend time with infectiously funny people. (Laughter relieves stress, allowing you to relax, making room in that imaginative noggin of yours to create something fantabulous.)
  • Read some inspiring articles to get you started. (You’re welcome. *wink, wink*)

As you’ve read, the treatment possibilities are endless, but the cure is critical. Try a few of the therapies listed above before attempting the only real cure for overcoming your nasty case of writer’s block. And that, my friend, is to write. But you know that already, we all do. Though, sometimes it’s beneficial to hear it from a stranger on the internet without personal attachments or expectations (i.e. spouse or agent).

Back to the dreaded task at hand… Write anything—a few lines without excuses.  It doesn’t need to be a masterpiece; it just needs to be written.

Write for the reason you began writing in the first place: enjoyment (not for your publisher, agent, or nagging significants). Don’t squelch your creativity, aiming for perfection and profitability.

After all, the first draft of anything is shit, right?

Feel comfort in Hemingway’s cozy quote and worry about revisions later.

Overcoming writer’s block is a stubborn rite of passage in any writer’s career. We’ve all been there, and unfortunately, it reeks of a cyclical and pathological nature, repeating it’s vial course of infection throughout a writer’s profession.  But knowing what therapies are available can perhaps encourage your creative constipation into remission long enough to write another shining work of shart. I mean, art.

You can, and you will, overcome this. Remember, there is no wrong or right—simply write.

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TANGLED TWEETS:

Simple Sarcasm or Twitter Shitter?

Seriously, do they really mean that? Staring down a fellow follower’s tweet—your @sign glares at you like a sputtering neon sign and begs for you to decipher the tweeter’s intent.twitter_bird

Do I laugh? Am I offended? You’re not sure, so you read it for the second time and a third, scratching your head as to how you should proceed. But the more you read, the more muddled the message becomes.

Sound familiar?

Sarcasm. It’s one of the primary ingredients in making an irresistible tweet retweetable, but it’s also risky if no one gets it. Positive words with a negative smiley. Negative words with a positive smiley. Tweets can be so confusing.

And unfortunately, you’re the receiver of said bewildering message, and you don’t get it. Your itchy Twitter finger questionably lingers over the ‘reply’ button. But wait…what’s the rush? There’s no timer on Twitter. No one is standing in front of you expecting a quick-witted reaction in 4, 3, 2, 1…

If you find your tweeter’s intent questionable, what’s the harm in researching them? There’s no shame in sifting through their ‘tweets and replies’ to explore the tone they share with their followers. Most likely, their general tweet tone should match yours, so laugh and move on, or hit reply, keeping up a playful social media banter.

twittershitterOn the other hand, there is a small chance during your sarcasm reconnaissance mission that you might inadvertently wander into the hateful lair of a Twitter Shitter, defecating a multitude of tangled tweets out to the world. If this is the case, stop analyzing and don’t feed them a response, fueling their appetite for negative attention.

After all, that was their intent: to fly by, deuce on your intellect, and most assuredly illicit a response, leaving an opening for another crappy fly-by. If you don’t reply, you don’t give them seed to grow another shitty tweet, leaving them no choice but to migrate another locale.

So the next time your @sign sputters an amusing yet questionable tweet—and you’re not sure whether to laugh or sneer—remember to check your tweeter’s backlog (har, har). It might save you from get dumped on by a Twitter Shitter in the future.

Manuscript rejections might tempt you to quit writing. Don’t.

quitquoteartTo open, or not to open…that is the question. A familiar twist on a famous quote that any querying writer might ask themselves before clicking open their daily email.

Your pointer finger hangs in the balance, hovering over your mouse. Should I? Shouldn’t I? Your eyes slim, focused with severely magical thinking. If I hold my breath, spin around three times, and close my eyes before clicking the innocent white envelope icon on my desktop, there will be an offer in my inbox today, right?

You bite your bottom lip, sneaking a peek at the first line of your only email today:

“I’m afraid your project just didn’t fully resonate…blah-blah-blah…”

A few choice words pummel their way out of your mouth. _ _ _ _! _ _ _ _! _ _ _ _! (Feel free to fill in the blanks.) Your eyes well up and heart flutters from the umpteenth coffee you drank, building up the courage to open up your stupid email in the first place.

Rejection is harsh. I mean, it really, really, bites! And unfortunately, even magical thinking won’t help thwart the knocks and bumps on your way toward writing success.

Now that you’ve been rejected, again, you have a few options:

  1. Toss yourself on the floor, kick and scream, cross your heart and hope to die, and swear that you’ll never write another word in your life. I don’t recommend this, but if you absolutely have to, do it front of the kids and watch the horror drip across their tiny faces when the roles are reversed. If anything it’ll bring a smile to your face.
  1. Schlep around in your fuzzy slippers for three days in three-day-old pajamas and eat only from the candy cabinet. I don’t recommend this either. Perhaps speaking from experience, perhaps not. We’ll leave it a mystery.
  1. Or put on your big girl panties or über-manly boxers, suck it up, continue to query, and start working on something new. I highly recommend this. Your mind is perfectly demented right now. And let’s face it…you have the time!

Okay, now that you’ve potentially visited options #1 and/or #2 and gotten them out of your system. It’s time get to work and take a good look at option #3. The truth is, most debut writers can’t handle rejection, folding way too early. Don’t be one of them. Use the tidbits of information received in your rejections to your advantage. Rejection helps you become a better writer.

A better writer, you say?

Yes, rejection usually comes with “read between the lines” feedback. That said, you can stew and pout if you want, going nowhere, or pay attention to the agent and editor’s feedback. Learn about what you need to work on to become a better writer, and publish that sucker!

Of course, you’ll most likely sift through more rejections than any writer cares to admit (even the famous ones) for those tiny golden nuggets of info. Do remind yourself along the way that agents and editors aren’t rejecting you, some simply pass because it’s not right for their particular audience. Some are inundated with queries, and they can choose only a choice few that they feel have a slight upper hand. But that doesn’t mean they hate your work, or that it’s bad, but they’ve made the best decision they can at the time, kicking themselves later after seeing it on the shelves. Personally, my ideal outcome.

success_quoteartSo the next time you open your email with a squinty-eyed puckered face, and that crooked pointer finger hovering over your mouse (Yep, go ahead and look, it’s crooked), remind yourself that you can use rejection to your advantage. After all, rejections are proof of your efforts and determination as a writer. If you persist and hear what rejection letters are saying, you will succeed.

Annoying things people ask writers but shouldn’t, ever!

WARNING: All information listed below is written in good fun. If you’re a serious lemon sucker, walk away.

 

A writer, really? Must be nice not having a real job.

Sure is, #@#$!

 

Can I read your first draft?

Yeah, why not.  Just let me print out your business laptop’s internet history and hand it over to your boss. That should be an even trade.

 

What do you do all day?

I polish my rubber ducky collection. What do you think?

 

So…are you still writing that little book?

By little, you mean 100,000 measly words, right? Well, then, yes.

 

Do you think it’ll get published?

No, jackass, I don’t need a paycheck. I thrive on my good looks and wit.

 

Is this character you’ve written about, YOU?

Why yes, you’ve guessed it. I’m a sociopathic serial killer. Yep, that’s me. Breakfast at my house anyone?

 

Am I in your book?

Tricky, tricky.  All names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this novel are fictitious—yes, fictitious. *feigns a smile* Next question…

 

I have any idea for your next book. Do you want to hear it?

*chuckles*

 

I’ve written something. Can I email it to you and get a critique?

Back to those rubber duckies.

 

Where do you get your ideas?

Minecraft—The Nether.

First Steps To Snagging Your Literary Agent

All right, so you think that you’ve written something worthy of publishing. Congrats, for making it this far! You deserve a pat on the back for all of your hard work and dedication. And now it’s time to take the next step.

So you’ve found yourself trolling the net, trying to dig up the dirt on how to snag a literary agent and landed here. Well, I’ll give you the short version of how to get started.

The golden rule of agent querying is that you must research each agent before submission—getting a feel for what each agent likes to represent. Agentquery.com is a nice tool to get a running list of all of the literary agencies out there. You need to visit each of their agency and/or personal websites and not rely on their info listed out there on alternate websites, as it is often out of date. Also, there isn’t enough insight to his or her current likes or dislikes, just a list of potential genres (that may or may not be what they are currently looking for).

In your search, you should be making a spreadsheet of each agent’s preferred submission guidelines. Do as they ask or your query might get lost in the shuffle.

Here is a list of additional resources that you may find helpful:

Go to the Publisher’s Marketplace site. They provide loads of information about their clients, deals, etc.

AAR – Association of Author’s Representatives – It’s like an Agent Yellow Pages, with differing information about each agent.

And, please, don’t forget Agentquery.com.

For print, there is Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents. Look for this annual on amazon.com.

After you’ve compiled your agent list, it’s time prioritize and narrow down your cream-of-the-crop agents and write your query letter (gulp!). Yep! It’s that time. It’s time to put up or shut up. Introducing yourself and your book with a succinct and professional query letter isn’t easy but you owe it yourself to take your time on it. You’re almost there. A query letter is your golden ticket to Publisherville, and it is as important, if not more important, than the book that you’ve written. It’s most likely taken you a couple of years to complete your first manuscript, so please, I can’t stress enough, please, take your time and PROOFREAD!

Your letter should include these elements:

  • You, absolutely, positively, need to connect to the agent in once sentence. Have you met your agent? Were you referred by a credible advocate?  Do they represent a specified genre?
  • Write a summary (please don’t divulge the whole story line). Also, agents are notoriously busy—the quicker you hook them, the better your chances are for a request.
  • Do tell you wrote the book. Have you had any other endorsements regarding your book that would be relevant to your future agent?
  • Do you have any credentials that support your writing career? Have you been published in the past?
  • Wait a minute…please be sure to proofread your query letter before you hit that send button!

Remember to be gracious and say thank you for whatever feedback comes down the literary pipeline. If you get an immediate reply and gel with a particular agent—hats off, job well done! If you don’t have an initial interest, don’t be discouraged. Agents are inundated with queries every day (up to 100 a day for popular agents) while keeping up with their current client list.

One more thing…keep forging ahead while you wait. Get started on your next bestseller—sharpening your writing skills and boosting your credentials. The sharper your craft is, the more you’ll fine tune your niche and the more you’ll improve your chances to snag that perfect agent!

Remember, becoming an author takes time, practice, persistence, and patience. I hope that this post was even the tiniest bit helpful. WRITE ON!

If you like my topics, please follow me on Twitter @taniansuarez.