The Craft of Writing

Archive for October, 2009|Monthly archive page

12 Ways an Agent Considers Your Query

In Marketing Your Book on October 29, 2009 at 9:55 am

I am not an agent, I’ve never had an agent, nor have I ever personally known an agent. Why then, am I the one to write this article? Well, I’m probably not. Still, I’ve been walking this path for a while now and I have learned to use those senses located around my face. This article is what I’ve learned as I’ve traversed my chosen trail.

An agent is in the business of selling books to publishers. They are business people like every other business person out there. They contend with P&L’s, customers, contacts, inventory control, and all the rest. They are looking for authors, even aspiring authors, for without us they are unemployed.

We, the authors clacking away at our keyboards until the dawn lights the morning sky, are their inventory. It is their job and profession to see their inventory put into the hands of their clients, the publishers. The secret, as with any business, is to choose the correct inventory to sell to the correct client. The query letter is one method they use to locate that inventory.

Though not necessarily presented in the order of their thought processes, this is my understanding of  when they receive your query, how they look at it.

Is the story within one they can sell? If their contacts weigh heavily toward romance publishers, sending a query touting a nonfiction book on the weaknesses in the Theory of Relativity is wasted on them. They may have no background in selling this type of book and they’ll most likely pass.

If they’ve just sold a similar book, they’ll probably not try to do it again as they’ve already pitched their contacts on the storyline.

If the story within is not interesting, they’ll pass. If this is your storyline is dull, overused, out of date, etc., the agent knows none of their contacts will buy the book from them.

If the story within is not unique. If your hero is named Luke and he’s an orphan living on a farm in some far, far away galaxy and he will soon discover he has the power to summon the forces of nature to his aid and… Well, it’s been done. You may have a slight chance if your work has a unique aspect to it, but save yourself the trouble and write a new story.

If your query is not professional in nature, it tells them you are not a professional. These guys are pros, and they want to surround themselves with like-minded individuals. Learn what each agents wishes to receive and give them that.

Their time is valuable and limited. Assuming your query even reaches their desk, you have maybe twenty seconds of their time available to you. If your query starts with, “I am so important to you,” or some such nonsense, you don’t even get the twenty. However, if you start with a good hook that catches their interest, you’ll get the extra ten seconds that previous blowhard squandered.

They look to the quality of your writing. They consider your query a sample of your writing skills and seek those who are well versed in the craft. Why would they try to sell inferior inventory? That is what you are if you have yet to learn how to write.

They do consider your provenance, if you will. Why are you the one to write this work? If you’ve not stepped into a classroom since you quit school in the seventh grade, they will not consider you the best source for recommending how to alter the educational landscape. If you write spy novels but have never seen the thin end of a pair of binoculars, you’ve probably chosen an incorrect genre. Write what you know. No, you need not have a writer’s pedigree, but you do need to exhibit knowledge of your subject matter, be it fiction or nonfiction.

They want to know why you chose them. If you’re querying every agent in the known universe, that’s fine from your perspective, but to them it’s a sure sign of your lack of professionalism. Query them for a reason and tell them why you did.

They do respect the recommendations from within their sphere. Wouldn’t you? They have clients and contacts they trust to know their desires and markets, and a confidant is their most efficient method of finding a new author. Try to get a recommendation. As difficult as that may be, it is your truest path to publication.

They want to know you’re in this as a career. They don’t earn as much money off a single book as they do a number of books. If they have your book published and twenty thousand copies are sold, how man dollars get into their pocket? How much do they earn if they sell twenty of your books at twenty thousand copies per? This is a business for them, even if it is not for you.

This is a subjective business and they will often pass on a manuscript for a reason as simple as it does not “call” to them. Sorry, guys, but life is unfair and so is the publishing world. That is why you query multiple agents.

If your query does not exemplify these qualities, I recommend you keep trying to improve your writing and querying skills.

I’d love for an agent to comment on this as to any errors in my thinking or omission in the list.

Until my next posting, kind readers, may all your books be best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze

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The Query Letter Made Simple

In General Information, The Craft of Writing, Working with Agents on October 28, 2009 at 9:06 am

I read a tweet the other day that say something like, if you’re overly worried about your query, you’re probably over thinking the thing. (I’m paraphrasing as I’m too lazy busy to hunt down the quote. Despite the rewording, it struck me how we authors need to rethink the query and make that proverbial molehill out of the mountain.

Take a deep breath and you’ll be just fine. Trust me. I was a doctor in my dreams once.

Regardless the potential of this frightening piece of paper, a query is nothing more than a short story.

To start, we’ll identify the components of a query letter is.

  1. It’s a business letter. (This is important.)
  2. It’s your novel made into a short story of two to three paragraphs.
  3. It’s a listing of your writer’s credentials, whatever they may or may not be.

Present these three parts in the order shown. Doesn’t sound so bad, now does it?

Have you ever written a business letter? If so, item one is under your belt. If you’ve not, it’s an easy task to master. Formatting is really about it. If you’re unsure, look it up on the Internet. You’ll conquer that skill in a single sitting. (Don’t forget to include all your contact information.)

The short story is not as tough as you imagine. You wrote the book, now make a short story out of it and you’re done. Focus here on the major conflicts in your story and how your primary characters respond to that conflict.  After your salutation, get right to the story. Here’s an example of what I mean by that.

Dear Ms. Agent,

Sam was an exceptional student at John Q. Public High School until Max came into his life.

See how that works? No embellishments, no howdy-dos, none of that. Get to the story right away.

In these two or three paragraphs, simply tell the agent who your, (no more than three), major characters are and the high points of their conflict. They don’t need descriptions of these people, just names and the plot points. Tell how your protagonist and your antagonist fought it out, as it were. Get to the meat of this issue and ignore, for now, all the side steps to the story. Here is your example.

Sam was an exceptional student at John Q. Public High School until Max came into his life. One night, Max convinced Sam to use a fake ID to get into the local pub. The boys got drunk and, with Sam a bystander, Max killed a drifter.

After Sam helped Max dispose of the body, Sam had second thoughts and wanted to report the incident to the police. Max was furious about the idea and tried a number of times to kill Sam.

Sam survived Max’s attempts and in the process, killed Max. Sam then got a job as an assassin’s assistant and, after time, morphs into a world renowned assassin.

There you go. The major characters and the chief conflict points are discussed in three short paragraphs. (I know they’re not well written but, hey, this is an example) This short story should be in the range of two hundred fifty words.

The method I use to craft this short story is easy. After completing at least a first draft of my manuscript, I condense each chapter into a single sentence such as “Boy meets girl.” I string them together to create my query short story. I then edit this short story as I do any manuscript. This process takes me a few hours, maybe half a day.

Don’t forget, these resulting paragraphs must be as well written as your manuscript. However, that shouldn’t be too difficult as you’re a writer, and that’s what writers do. Right?

Finally, the last paragraph lists your writer’s accomplishments in paragraph form. Don’t have any? Not to worry. Agents don’t really care if you’re an aspiring author. They just want to know you’re good at your chosen craft.

In my next posting, I’ll discuss how agents look at your query to make their decisions in asking for partials.

Until then, my all your books be best-sellers.

Patrick

THE Cardinal Rule of Writing

In The Craft of Writing on October 27, 2009 at 9:12 am

We all know the cardinal rule in writing is “Show. Don’t tell.” It sounds simple, but what does it really signify? It can be defined in two words, “action” and “dialogue.”

To build this article I did a bit of Internet research and everything I found could have been condensed into those two words. I was also truly surprised at the lack of definitions or explanations for this most important of rules. Then, when I attempted to put this article on paper, I found how difficult it was to explain. So, I thought I ‘d give you a couple of examples as a way to “show” you what it means.

Consider this “telling.”

Jackson rode into town with the top down on his convertible, waving to his many friends as he passed. He acknowledged his neighbor, the grocer, the post master, his teacher and the police officer who had threatened a youthful Jackson with arrest when he was caught pilfering apples.

I’ll bet you can see this happening. However, in contrast, let’s “show” this same scene with action and dialogue.

Jackson backed his antique convertible from the garage, taking time to lower the top. Entering the vehicle again, he paused to savor the warmth of the sun as it kissed the back of his neck.

Pulling out of the driveway, his waved to Bill, his poker buddy who lived in the house beside his.

“Hey, Bill. How they hanging?”

Bill throttled down his mower and returned Jackson’s gesture with a single toss of his hand. “Uptight, as always. Love that car, Jack.”

“Especially on days like today.” Jackson flourished his hand in a wide arc to encompass the cerulean sky overhead. With a parting nod in Bill’s direction, Jackson pointed his cherry-apple ’57 Chevy into the emerald overhand of the tree-lined road.

As Jackson rounded the corner, Michael, the town’s only postman, tossed a greeting in his direction. “What’s up, Jack?”

Jak responded in his normal fashion. “Same ol’, same ol’.” He then added, “Great day to have your job!”

Michael nodded and smiled. “Beautiful day, it is.”

Jak continued down the road until he was forced to break at the elementary school crosswalk. Miss Jenkins, the town spinster and his long-past kindergarten teacher, waddled past in front of his car.

“Good day, young Jackson. You still minding your manners?”

“Of course, Miss Jenkins.” Jackson waved over his windshield. “You taught me well.”

She nodded as if she was proud of her accomplishments in his regard, then passed from sight.

As Jackson reached his office and parked his vehicle, he raised the black fabric top for the local news warned of a coming weather front.

Just then, a burly officer dressed all in blue called out. “Hey, Jackson! Straight and narrow, are we?”

Jackson laughed at the running joke and answered in his habitual way. “Yeah, Sam, until I’m caught!”

Officer Samson O’Rilley chuckled as he bounded up the police station steps two at a time to cram his large body behind the too-small desk in the office he shared with Jackson.

You should notice these two scenes tell the exact same tale. Yet, which of them pulls you, as a reader, into the story? Which introduces you to the characters in such a way as to make them come alive?

I think it’s obvious. In the first scene, there were only five verbs and zero dialogue. In the second there were so many I didn’t bother to count.

In the first we met six characters, none of whom showed any personality or life. The second, in contrast, introduce those same six and we learned something about each of them. That is what draws people into your work.

The lesson here? I hate to say it, but it’s “Show. Don’t tell.”

I hope this helps a bit and may all your books are best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze

What Concerns You about Writing

In Marketing Your Book on October 26, 2009 at 2:28 pm

Tell us what is of most concern to you as a writer and we’ll focus our articles on what you’d like to learn.

Thanks for your input.

Patrick

Tips from the Masters

In The Craft of Writing on October 24, 2009 at 9:13 am

We’ve all heard to emulate the successful should we seek success. Well, here’s what the successful say of writing.

One of my favorite writing tips comes from Mark Twain. He said, “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” Can you say, “Find Feature?”

Mr. Twain also spoke to me with this one, “Write without pay until somebody offers to pay.” Amen to that! Or, as my wife says, “Follow your muse, Patrick. Write for the love of it.”

We’ve all heard authors are supposed to prune their writing to say more with less. Elmore Leonard found a way to say this in such a way as to eliminate all possibility of argument. “I try to leave out the parts that people skip.” To that end, William Strunk Jr. told us, “Vigorous writing is concise.”

Another maxim with which authors are familiar is to write with emotion. It’s a simple idea put into great words by William Wordsworth. I like this one. “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” Sounds like there’s a good title for a blog or romance novel hidden in those words, doesn’t it?

Anton Chekhov, I think he was on Star Trek, spoke of how we should paint pictures with our words when he said, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

Have you read articles about how to accept and learn from whatever criticism you receive? Ray Bradbury, advises us to, “…accept rejection and reject acceptance.” Tough, but good advice.

Mr. Bradbury also tells us we should write as much as we can for, “If you only write a few things, you’re doomed.” Clever guy, Ray is.

As authors we write about what we have experienced within our own lives. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said it best. “If any man wish to write in a clear style, let him be first clear in his thoughts; and if any would write in a noble style, let him first possess a noble soul.”

How much of our lives should we put into our craft? John Irving suggests, The way you define yourself as a writer is that you write every time you have a free minute. If you didn’t behave that way you would never do anything.”

Something I learned from my mother and apply to my writing is to trust my instincts. (Smart woman that Margaret!) AS G. K. Chesterton put it, “I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.” A related quote I found is again from our friend, Ray Bradbury. “Yet if I were asked to name the most important items in a writer’s make-up, the things that shape his material and rush him along the road to where he wants to go, I could only warn him to look to his zest, see to his gusto.”

Has a writing mentor ever told you to write in a fashion the rest of the world has not? Try Oscar Wilde’s though on for size. “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”

Whew! That’s a lot to master. If you’re successful what do you reap? (Besides that elusive book deal?)  One will, “Learn as much by writing as by reading.” So says Lord Acton.

Best of luck in making these ideas a part of your writing life.

May all your books be best-sellers.

Patrick

Ten Tips to Remain Unpublished

In Editing Your Manuscript on October 22, 2009 at 9:13 am

by C. Patrick Schulze

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We all wish to see our books and novels on the shelves while throngs of people race to the store to grab a copy for themselves. Few of us will ever realize this dream if we lack those skills necessary to master the craft of writing. So, I’m offering a short list of novice errors the accomplished writer has learned not to make.

Your manuscript is full of synonyms for the word, “said.”

“Save me!” she pleaded.

“I’ll save you!” the hero responded.

The villain cried out, “I won’t let you save her!”

“Never mind, I’ve saved myself,” she complained.

If you feel you must use a tag line, put it in sentence form.

She pleaded for someone to help.  “Save me!”

Her hero called out to her. ‘”‘ll save you!”

The villain yelled to her hero. “I won’t let you save her!”

After freeing herself, she stood behind them with a scowl. “Can’t you two do anything right?”

(If your dialogue sounds like this, you’ll remain unpublished, but this works as an example.)

You Use Too Many “ly” Words.

Adverbs are badly overused by writers today. Oops, I mean, Adverbs are overused by writers today.

Adverbs are the lazy author’s method of working. This writer has the tendency to use the first thought that comes to mind and put it on  his paper. This is no problem in your first draft, but by your fourth or fifth, they should mostly be gone, uh, they should generally be gone, oh, jeez, I mean there should be few, if any, of them left in your manuscript. There are two traditional ways to overcome this error. The first is to use your Find Feature within your word processor and locate those evil “ly” words. Replace them with stronger verbs or reword them. The classic example is to replace “softly crying” with “whimpering.” You can also drop the “ly” word entirely, or rather in its entirety,  if it doesn’t make a difference to the meaning. Consider the phrase, “utterly alone.” If you’re alone, you’re by yourself and if you are “utterly alone” you are still by yourself.

You Have a Tendency to Overuse Adjectives.

Our classic example in this case is, “the dark night.” We all know night is dark and by adding the word, you’ve not embellished the concept of night at all. James Thurber explains with this sentence. “The building is pretty ugly and a little big for its surroundings.” “Pretty ugly” is still ugly and “a little big” is still big. There is a place for adverbs in writing, but use them sparingly and only if you’ve attempted to replace them with verbs and nouns.

You Use Wimpy Words.

Wimpy words tend to cheapen your writing. They include such things as almost, probably, seems, appears, about and “ish-words”, among others. Did your character almost yell out or did they fume? Did the boss seem upset or were his eyes flaming with anger? Use your words with boldness and confidence.

Clichés are a Dime a Dozen.

Now and then your readers feel it in their bones that your writing has feet of clay. (Hey, Cut me some slack. I’m improvising on the fly here.) Cliché’s bore your readers and an author’s worst sin is to writing boringly, uh, without feeling.

Your Writing Contains Dialect.

It be too diff’cult t’ red dose dam woids. Ya cotton t’ ma meanin’? With some characters, you must show a distinction between their dialect and that of others, but aim for the flow of their speech patterns rather than their actual words.

You Repeat Your Best Words Over and Over and Over and Over Again.

If you truly use the same words too often, your writing will truly be, uh, truly bad. Keep your eyes open for those words that repeat themselves too often. It bores your readers to repeat the same word or words repetitively. Look for those words that are similar in wording, too. Reword them.

Miscellaneous Errors.

“He looked over the escarpment between childhood and manhood.” If your writing sounds like poetry, reword it. Just use expressive, interesting words and put them on the paper.

You use altogether too much alienating alliteration.

Sure, it can be effective if used with correct comportment, but its effectiveness is fast fleeting if you employ it as a tentative tool too many memorable times. Alliteration can work, but its strategic use makes for more effective writing.

Your Writing is Coy or Uses Gimmicks.

Starting too many sentences with, “and” or “but.”

You pull lines from movies or television shows.

Your exciting sentences end with multiply punctuation marks!!!!

You use CAPITAL LETTERS instead of italics to indicate emphasis . (“DO WHAT I SAY!” vs. “Do what I say!”)

Perform a triple-check of your manuscript and see if it can be improved. It may well make the difference between a form rejection and an offer.

(And you thought you were done with your editing.)

I hope you know by now I wish you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze

Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers.”


Why Query?

In Working with Agents on October 19, 2009 at 6:48 am

I liken the querying process to being beat up by a schoolyard bully. He keeps knocking you on your butt every time you run into him. He steals your milk money, too. Worst of all there is nothing you can do about it. Feel familiar, all you rejection-laden authors?

So, why must we query anyway? Surely there’s a reason to subject ourselves to this abuse time and again. Isn’t there? Yeah, there is.

Think of your query as little more than a filter. Yep, as tough as it sounds, a query is your introduction to the sifting process of publication.

In most cases, the first set of eyes to view your query does not belong to the agent, but rather a subaltern of some sort. These nameless and unheralded assistants toil behind the scenes to find the unadulterated garbage that constitutes ninety percent of all queries. You’ve heard about them; the ones adorned with perky ribbons, musky aromas or a thousand staples. These look-at-me schemes don’t work and are filtered first. Next, these tireless unnamed peruse their in boxes for those letters crafted by the uninitiated, the inane and the idiots. Finally, they whittle away those queries with no story to support them, poor characterizations and the many other writers who have yet to learn their craft.

Eventually, that elusive ten percent filter down and find their way to the agent. The agent now must cull anew. This one does fit the genres she represents, but she just sold that very same story last month. This one disquiets her emotions and that one she loves but it has no current market.

Finally ten, of a thousand, rise to the surface. The queries pass the initial harvests and are transferred to the agent’s Kindle for further consideration. As she reads them on her subway ride home, one identifies the author as someone who does not understand The Business of Writing. This person will require too much additional work for the agent and she decides to pass. The next tells her the author is dabbling in a hobby versus living in a profession. Pass. However, the rest show wonderful promise!

The remaining queries exhibit acumen with their storytelling, expertise in the craft, and prove the authors’ professional toward their profession and give her the information she needs to identify plot points, conflict and characters. That evening, four emails are sent out asking for further submissions. (Hallelujah!)

The moral of this story? Your query is your sales document and it must survive the filtering process if you are to succeed. Learn how to craft a well-written query before you send it in. Best of luck to you all.

Until we speak again, may all your books be best-sellers!

Patrick

Unemployed and Writing? Uh-oh…

In General Information, Marketing Your Book, Working with Agents on October 14, 2009 at 7:54 am

If you’re trying to have your first book published and are not gainfully employed, you may initially want to keep that tidbit of information to yourself.

Think from the agent’s perspective and it becomes clear as to why I recommend this. The moment they think you’re writing simply to fill time, your desirability diminishes with great speed. *Lead balloon hitting ground.* If they suspect you’re not in this for the long haul, their potential to make money off your talents is reduced. They may see you as the proverbial one-trick-pony and shy away from your limited earning capacity. As a career writer, you’ll be busier after they sell your work and they’ll need you out and about marketing your book. They may assume you won’t hit the bricks when you find employment. After all, they are in the business of writing, even if you’re not. The same thing applies if you’re retired. Avoid all references to the ominous and, and wonderful, “R” word, if possible.

So, how to do this? Have you heard of the “Sin of Omission?” That’s your ticket. (It’s not my favorite sin, but it does have its usefulness nonetheless.)

So, when do you come clean? When they ask or the subject comes up. But in every case, you must inform them before any agreements are signed. They may consider this a critical issue and you owe them your honesty. You and your agent are business partners and you have an obligation to be honorable and truthful in all things related to your mutual business interests. However, if they’re not your agent, then they are your sales prospect and the obligation is to yourself. At that point, as with anything being sold, put yourself in the best light. (No, that’s not a thin line.)

On the other side, does you current situation preclude you from writing? Not at all. If you have talent, maybe this will become your new career. Besides, some of the most noteworthy authors have started well after their fifth decade. You want proof? Consider Nirad Chaudhuri’s “Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” It was published at the start of his second century on this planet.

Your agent is a business person, as are you, and you’re both looking for each other. Honesty and salesmanship is necessary at both positions.

Until my next post, my all your books become best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze

The Key to Your Author's Platform

In Marketing Your Book on October 13, 2009 at 8:06 am

The word, “Platform” is bandied about these days with ease, but few of us really know what it means. Here’s your quick definition and outline.

Your platform is nothing more mysterious then how you get the word out about your book. Pretty simple, huh?

And, reaching your platform is within the capabilities of each of you who read this. After all, you got here by using every skill needed to connect with your platform. All that’s required is a bit of knowledge of how to use the Internet.

Can you send an email? (Check.) Can you write an article? (We are all writers, so, check.) Can you ask a question like, “Will you read my book?” (Check.) Can you use Twitter, Facebook and the like? (Check!) You’re ready.

You can see from the above questions everything that’s necessary. Here’s your list.

Develop an email contact list. Every person you come in contact with is a potential book buyer. Get their email address and keep in contact. There are all sorts of programs for this, such as Constant Contact or even ACT!. (No, I’m not a paid endorser.) Don’t bombard these people with emails, just keep them abreast of major changes in your author’s life.

Write Articles. Like this one, for example. Create a blog, (its FREE), and post your articles. Then market whatever it is you have to offer via Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Get Testimonials. You do this by asking people what they think. (Get over yourself and ask for them.) Often, just by reading your articles, they’ll give you testimonials on their own. They leave them in the comment section of your blog. In fact, I’ll ASK you to leave a testimonial when you’re finished reading. Will you do that for me? (Boy, that was sooo easy!)

Think you can do this? Yeah, I think you can to.

I guess you’ve noticed there are no radio interviews listed, no expensive ads required and no wealthy benefactors supporting you. It’s simple, guys. In fact, one VERY successful author told me only 6% of the people who came to his book signings actually came from his ads. 94% came from his social media contact efforts. So, you now have the key. Let’s open some doors.

Best of luck and my all your books be bestsellers!

Patrick

Author of Born to be Brothers

Four Secrets to Your Successful Writing Business

In General Information, Marketing Your Book on October 11, 2009 at 10:39 am

I’ve just returned from the James River Writer’s Conference in Richmond, VA and came away with interesting highlights from the people I met as much as the panelists. One of the common threads that surfaced among the attendees was their misunderstanding of fundamentals relative to The Business of Writing.

I met one woman who told me she simply refused to do one of the key aspects of the business. Her exact words were, “I refuse to Tweet and FaceBook and all that other stuff.” That woman has virtually no chance of success in the industry. She could not “see” the business in which she had chosen to work and has reduced her chances of success by simple attitude. Worst of all, she’ll not understand why she isn’t successful.

What are the odds someone could make it to pro football if the person refuses to run? What about a tailor who will not talk to customers or the chef who feared heat. These are no-other-choice aspects to their chosen fields, as is marketing in the writing business. If you won’t market, you’ll not sell. Are there exceptions? Sure, but you’re not it and neither am I. Marketing your business is a simple concept and we must play the game.

I met another who had no idea of how to run her writing business, for she had no experience in the matter. When speaking with her, it was obvious the concept of withholding taxes on her writer’s income had not occurred to her. She at least understood showing up was half that battle and was willing to look into it.

So, as I drove home I thought I might put up a short outline of The Business of Writing. By the nature of blogs, it’s limited, but this will get you started.

You must master four basic aspects of your new self-employed business to find your way to financial writing success. In order, they are:

  1. Write your book.
  2. Marketing your book.
  3. Find your agent, unless you are self-publishing.
  4. Learn to manage taxes and understand a Profit and Loss Statement.

First, write your book and write it well.

If step one is not complete, the rest of this work is inconsequential. Write your book. Write it well. Pay your dues and get it done.

Next, develop and implement your marketing plan.

This is not so easy, but anyone can do it. Writers are often introverts and, in consequence, “marketing” seems a dirty word. Do you have $10,000 a year to hire a professional publicist? I don’t. So, I’ve learned to do it on the cheap. Despite what you want to hear, all those odd sounding tools found on the Internet are what you, as a novice, use. Learn to tweet, learn to use Facebook, LinkedIn and start a blog. Each of these four tools are FREE, (talk about a good word!), but you must learn them. Once you’re rich and famous, you can consider stopping them, but until then, this is your word to the wise.

I say you must learn these. Must you? Not really. But your success will lessen dramatically without them. It all depends on how successful you wish to be.

Start here. Don’t go out and print bookmarkers, postcards and the like. Just start here.

And, no, there is no need for a web site at this point. Your web site is a sales tool, a virtual brochure and cash register, and you have no buyers as there is nothing to sell as yet. So save this expense for now, but work it into your later stages of your marketing. I’ll post more on this aspect of writing later.

Third, you’ve got to run that gauntlet of finding an agent.

Even at the end of the first decade in the 21st century, the Internet has not replaced the agent. It may within in time, but it has not yet. I’ll ask you to trust me on this one. Despite all the changes in the industry, it will be a while before you and I will be able to replace their rolodexes. It’s as simple as that.

If you can’t find an agent, which is a high probability, then consider self-publishing. If you go this route, you’d better be good at marketing ‘cause there ain’t nobody out there pushing for you.

And finally, you must learn the financial aspects of writing.

The IRS loves to chew on unsuspecting writers. If you write a good book, and if you learn to market and if you land an agent and if she sells your book and if it sells well, and if, and if, and if…, you need to know how to work the money angle. Any decent accountant can help you there, but pick up QuickBooks and get used to it. I’d start this the day I sign an agent.

Okay, guys, it’s a broad outline, but it’s on spot. Hope it helps.

Patrick