Thursday, January 7, 2010

Tips on How to Find an Agent for Your Novel

Tweet It!
Bookmark and Share
Can a novel writer achieve success without an agent? Of course. All you require are strong marketing skills, a firm grasp of specific technologies, appropriate contacts, a few bucks, a bit of luck, time and perseverance. As you might expect, most of us mere mortals don’t have more than one or two of these, let alone all of them. So, it remains true for most of us, the best route toward success as an author is to place our novel in the capable hands of an agent.

So, how does one go about finding one of these elusive beings? Truth be told? Its difficult. It’s very difficult. However, if you can find that bit of luck, or better yet create your own, there are some things you can do to enhance your prospects.

First and foremost, write that saleable, excellent manuscript to its completion. No exceptions, no excuses. Without a marketable product, the agent has nothing to sell for you and everything else is mute. You may have a magnificent product, but if there is no market to buy it, agents can’t help you. You may have the perfect market, but a substandard novel will never sell. Writing is a business, so deliver a quality product first.

Next, understand two things. Agents are looking for new authors. Every agent wants to land the next Tolstoy or King or Koontz. If you’re not up to the status of these authors, agents will work with you, if you can help make them a living. (No, it’s not all about you and your book.) An agent’s goal is to sell books and they’ll sell your book if you have that marketable product.

The next concept to understand is agents are people too. They’re real people like you and I with children, bosses, vacations, illnesses, bills and all the rest. They’re not horned wild-eyed creatures looking for souls to crush. They actually want you to thrive, for your success breeds their success.

Next, narrow your search to those agents looking for your genre of writing. Consider this. If you’re looking to purchase a new automobile and some guy tries to sell you a table, what are the odds you’ll bite? They’re about the same as an agent who sells children’s books buying your horror story. Don’t waste your time or theirs.

There are any number of avenues by which you might filter the agents to find those who are receptive to your genre. You can start, of course, with the current “Guide to Literary Agents” at your local bookstore or on the web. You might also consider the Association of Authors' Representatives Web site at There is no limit to the resources available to determine which agent will consider your work. Jump on the Internet and get to work.

Next, research the books the appropriate agents have published. This secret just might be one of your most important aspects to landing an agent, by the way. By knowing the agent’s published works, you can compare your manuscript to those they’ve already sold. When you query them later, compare your work to one or more of theirs. As an example, if your novel has exceptionally strong characters, then compare your characters to one or more books the agent has already represented that also have similar characterizations. This gives the agent a handle on what you have to offer and two additional pieces of information. One, you’ve done your research and are knowledgeable about the industry, and two, they already know how to sell your book to their publishers.

In tomorrow’s post, I’ll continue with this idea and give you more tips on how to influence an agent to represent you.

Until then, I wish you best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

That Simplest of Ways to Improve Your Writing

Tweet It!
Bookmark and Share
When I completed writing my first manuscript, I sent my novel off to an editor so she could inform me just how many gracious platitudes I might receive from adoring novel lovers. As I’m certain you’ve already surmised, she utterly failed in her mission.

Though the manuscript contained more red ink that black when I received it, one specific note she made, and made, and made related to my use of the word, “that.” Beside the first such notation she indicated, and I paraphrase, the word can most often be eliminated from writing without losing any meaning or substance. Since then I’ve found we use the word so often in our everyday speaking it’s not even noticed. However, when I read it, that word jumps out to me these days.

I researched “Success with Words – A Guide to the American Language” for this blog post and, wow, did they go on and on about it. (And it published was by Readers’ Digest, of all people.) Regardless, for the sake of article length and purpose, suffice it to say the word is used as a pronoun, an adjective and a conjunctive.

Further, let’s stick with my editors’ suggestion, shall we? She offered a simple trick I still use to this day. She recommended I read the sentence aloud without the offending word and consider if it could be eliminated. If none of the meaning of the sentence is lost by this, it is unnecessary and I should cut it. Alas, I lost much of my word count during that exercise.

Let’s look at some examples.

“What’s the best way to get that accomplished?”

“What’s the best way to get accomplished?”

You see the sentence lacking the word loses something, doesn’t it? It doesn’t make sense. In this case, keep “that” in place. Another example follows.

“Organize your files so that you can find things with ease.”

“Organize your files so you can find things with ease.”

It’s obvious in this second example that the word is not necessary and may be eliminated, therefore, making the second sentence, and this one, of higher quality as it relates to writing.

The easiest method I’ve found is to perform this edit is to use the Find feature in your word processing program and go down the long list of things it spews forth. It won’t take as long as you think and once you’ve done this, it becomes second nature.

Now, there is a caveat I noted in “Success with Words” so I’ll pass it along. It said the word is often still acceptable in formal language. However, when was the last time you used formal language?

I personally tend to leave it in for certain characters in my novels’ dialogue. I now use it for the less educated of characters, whereas with my better educated ones I do not.

As you work through your edits, try this simple technique and I’ll bet you’ll be surprised just how well it improves your writing.

Until we meet again, I wish you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tips for Editing Your Novel

Tweet It!
Bookmark and Share
Many authors, professional or otherwise, make some of the same mistakes when writing. Among them is the correct balance of “white space”, unnecessary or too much information and the infamous “as –ing” construction.

The balance between text and white space on a page is a difficult concept to explain, but you’re looking for the correct flow to your page as well as your words. To give you an idea of how to find this flow, print out your manuscript, or even your chapter, single-spaced for this exercise. Flip the pages and just get a feel for the amount of white to black you see. Then compare your manuscript to a novel of similar genre and see how it compares. Does yours have a great deal more or less white space? Do your paragraphs seem dramatically longer than the published work’s? If you have too much black, this is often caused by too little dialogue. Too much white space, in contrast, often means too much dialogue. One secret is to look for paragraphs that run more than, say, half the page. Try this a few times to see if this helps you. It’s interesting, but this simple exercise may just enhance your writing more than you’d imagine.

Another error writers make is implanting unnecessary or too much information. This often comes from the overuse of setting or a character’s personality traits. For example, if you find your character dons her threadbare coat while slipping on her gloves with only six full fingers, and she laments the hole in her hat as she places it atop her head, then picks up her worn purse that contains only a few odd coins, well then, you’ve probably told too much. Your reader will understand your character’s economic plight with much less information. Just drip these ideas by offering a detail or two then get into the story. As these details build up, your reader will understand both personality and setting. If you need this much information for word count, then your story is probably too thin.

Another way an author adds too much information is having more than one character perform the same function or provide identical information to the story. Does your story need a father to teach your hero to use tools and a grandfather to teach him to hunt? Can both of these functions be performed by a single character? Too many characters in a novel create confusion for the reader and might not add to the story. Read the first fifty or so pages of Gone with the Wind and you’ll understand what I mean. Review each character to see if they are necessary to the story and see if two or more can be combined for clarity.

The “as –ing” phraseology is also often used abused by new and experienced writers alike. To explain this, we’ll revisit our destitute woman mentioned earlier.

“As she put on her hat, she turned the key in the lock.”

Another way you might see this is as follows:

“Putting on her hat, she turned the key in the lock.”

See the “as –ing” context here?

When reading these sentences, the first action, putting on the hat, seems to have much less weight then the next action, turning the key. The hat feels inconsequential. To correct this, it might be rewritten as follows:

“She placed her hat on her head then inserted the key into the lock.”

In this case, both action appear to have significance and therefore makes the first action more important.

If you review your manuscript, you may well find some of these issues buried within. By fixing them, you’re writing will take on a far more authoritative tone.

Best of luck and I wish you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze

Monday, January 4, 2010

More Tips on How to Increase Blog Readership

Tweet It!
Bookmark and Share

My last post offered basic secrets on how to increase the readership of your blog. In this post, I’ll add to those ideas.

More ideas to consider include:

1.      Blog regularly. We live in a world dominated by information and if your information comes in slow or infrequent drabs, readers will gravitate toward someone who offers them more.

2.      Submit your blog to search engines. Not only should you submit to Google and Yahoo and the like, keep an eye out for niche search engines which are developing. I heard about a search engine that specializes in Arts and Crafts, for example.

3.      Make it easy for readers to subscribe to your blog via an RSS feed.  This is a tool that allows those who have registered on your site to receive any updates to your blog. Though this sounds like something for the more technically proficient among us, it’s easier than you might think as most blogging sites have a fill-in-the-blank format for the rest of us.

4.      Create a blogroll. A blogroll is simply a list of links to other sites. Many of those on your blogroll will reciprocate and link to your site, thus sending their readers to you. Of course, these links should be relevant to your topic. As you might suspect, it will do you little good to link to a sports site if your blog is about knitting.

5.      Post on other blogs and list your blog as your web page if they ask for it. This helps with “searchability” of various search engines.

6.      Allow comments on your blog and let them post whatever they like. Regardless their comments, respond to each one. Everyone likes to be acknowledged. This is so powerful I’ve actually had people comment on my commenting to their comment.

7.      Allow readers to “Digg” or “Stumbleupon” or “” your blog. And don’t forget sites such as Twitter and Facebook. These social networking bookmarks allow your readers to tag what they like which helps your post to infiltrate cyberspace.

8.      Insure your blog is automatically posted at such sites as Facebook, Twitter and the like. If you can’t figure how to do this on your own, physically embed a link with each post. Again, any worthy word processor can do this by filling in the blanks.

9.      Don’t get into too many advertisements. It’s called monetizing your site and it irritates people. Blogging is about information, not sales. If you are blogging to sell something, create a link from your blog to your sales site.

10.  Promote your blog at every opportunity. Your business card, your email signature, your comments to other blogs, etc., are all opportunities to let others know about your site.

11.  Give something away. Possibly the number one method of promoting your blog is to give away an eBook. Write an eBook on whatever topic your blog covers and offer it to readers for free. Insure it’s something useful to your readers and capture their email when you give it away. Of course, in your eBook, you’ll link to your blog, right?

12.  Interact with your readers. Ask for their advice or input. You might have them name your new puppy or advise you as to which seminar is the most useful. (Here’s a chance to give away your eBook to the winner, right?) A great way to get people involved is to publish on current and controversial subject matter that relates to your blog’s subject matter. For example, if your blog topic is sports, you might ask if Tiger Woods really deserves what he’s experiencing. Find a way to insure they get involved. It takes creativity, but the payoff will be worth the effort.

13.  Link to other blog posts. Within the body of your post, promote other bloggers by linking to their articles. They will appreciate your promotion of their work and may just do the same for you, thus sending more readers your way.

I do encourage further reading and study. As an example, on Twitter I follow @problogger to help me with my blog.

Best of luck with your blog and let me know if you have any questions.

Until I hear from you, I wish you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze