Monthly Archives: October 2011

Stacey Kennedy on Social Media

Social media has become the best way to promote your book for free. It is fast becoming the best way to promote your book, period. It’s not so easy though…it takes time, effort and even a little bit of ingenuity. Here’s published author, Stacey Kennedy, on social media:

You have yourself a nice shiny contract! You’re an author. You’ve made it. Now what?

Social media is one of the most important things you can do when you have that first release out. So how do you get your name out there and get a loyalty of readers behind you? There are many ways to do this, and I’m sure others can add to my list—so please do so—but today I’m going to stick to the big two.

Facebook:

I absolutely love Facebook. In fact, I think I might not be able to live without it. But here is one BIG lesson about Facebook: people want to be your friend. Of course they would, right? If you go on Facebook and expect to post promotional stuff, and think you’re going to interest your readers, you’re wrong. Facebook is a social place that people want to chat, share, and get to know you. So connect with readers in your genre, talk to them, and that is the best way to gain more followers.

Big no-no’s on Facebook:

  1. Never add someone to a group without permission. This will only anger someone and cause them to write something nasty on your wall.
  2. Do not send excerpts of your work out. I can’t tell you how many emails I get from other authors who promote their work this way. Whenever I get one, I simply delete the email, and remove them from my friends list. So, I’d imagine I’m not alone in this. Post reviews of your work, do a guest blog, an interview to show us how fabulous your book is.
  3. Never—and I can’t stress this one enough–send out a group email promoting your work. I’ve seen a few times an author get ripped apart for doing this, and it’s horrible to watch, especially when the author didn’t realize that they had made a terrible Facebook mistake. When you add someone to a group email, they will get every email that is sent. Trust me, once one person gets angry because you’ve added them, you’ll receive a lot of the same responses. Do you really want a hundred people to see how angry you’ve made others?

Twitter:

At first, I scratched my head over Twitter. I found it so impersonal and didn’t really understand it. But after I got used to writing in 140 characters or less, which is in no way easy, I found it’s a great way to reach out to a huge following. Not only to readers, but book bloggers (who are great to have on your side). For me, most of who I follow, and follow me, are other authors. But I love that. It’s a great way to hear news going on in the book industry, support my fellow authors, and reach out to their followers as well.

Twitter, though, has one HUGE promotional tool. Hashtags. For example, if you receive a review, you can retweet that review and use the hastag, #paranormalromance, or whatever relates to your book. So, that smashing review of yours will reach every person that follows that hashtag. Pretty darn good promotion!

Big no-no’s on Twitter:

  1. Complain. Seems simple, right? Sadly, I’ve seen it way too often. The truth of the matter is this, 140 characters are not many words, and what you say can be misunderstood. Plus, I don’t know about y’all, but it gets very old listening to someone rant constantly. I have removed quite a few people I followed for this very reason.
  2. Diss other authors. Recently, I saw a perfect example of this of when an author posted on Twitter discussing how poorly another author’s grammar was. No names were used, thankfully, but it still leaves a not-so-good impression. Always remember that it’s not only your friends reading your post, but it could very well be your dream agent. Do you really want them to read you talking this way?
  3. Promote on every tweet. Use Twitter to say something witty, interesting, share news, guest blogs, giveaways—anything like that. But remember to keep your promotion to the minimal. People are on Twitter to read interesting stuff, not be overwhelmed with the same promotion snippets over and over again. While you might think that sending out promotional tweets will gain new followers and make your book look like the best book in the world, it will undoubtedly do the exact opposite, and only annoy those reading it.

All you need to remember is these are “social” places. People want to talk to you and get to know you. Show your “voice” that is found in your stories and be, simply put, interesting! Yes, they’re unbelievable promotional platforms, but use them wisely. And avoid all the “do not do’s” above. The last thing any new author needs is a backlash because they tried to promote their book in the wrong way.

Enjoy Facebook and Twitter! They’re fun places, and a great place to meet new people who love books as much as you do!

Thanks, Stacey! And, readers: what is your social-media pet-peeve?

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Conference Jitters

Last weekend, I participated in my first round of pitch appointments at the New Jersey Romance Writers’ Put Your Heart in a Book Conference, which was lovely. I’ve never been pitched a verbal query before, so I was surprised by how nervous everybody was, and by how nervous I was myself.

As I sat at my narrow little table, hoping my iPhone didn’t chirp in the middle of someone’s pitch, I was actually quite startled and a little uncomfortable at the extreme nervous energy in the room. Each author who came to tell me about his/her book looked like they were currently in the process of surmounting an obstacle. Right then and there, each author was climbing a mountain. And I totally get it. It’s terrifying to take something that came from your mind and your heart and show it to someone else whose function is first and foremost to judge you. I mean, it’s akin to sitting down naked in front of the agent…and not being comfortable with how you look.

But each author did it. Nobody choked. Nobody cried, to my hallelujah-like relief. Nobody got angry at me when I offered my criticism, if I did. I’ll admit it: I was nervous too. What if I zoned out while the author was pitching and had to ask her to repeat herself? What if I hurt someone’s feelings, in a fit of tact-lapse? I don’t think that happened either. If I did hurt your feelings, pitch appointment authors who might be reading, it was unintentional. I was pleasantly surprised that I really wanted to read almost every manuscript pitched to me. But, true to my nature, I want to offer some advice to conference pitchers:

1. Tell the agent or editor you’re nervous. Just put it out there. It might make you feel better to not try and hide it.

2. Don’t speak too quickly. We need to be able to understand you and your book. I know you probably want to just get through it, but its important to be clear and calm.

3. Don’t say “um”. Pause, if you need to, during which you say nothing and collect your thoughts. But filler-words can be very annoying and muddling, particularly when its excessive.When every other word is “uh” or “um” I’m narrowing my eyes and concentrating too hard on trying to understand you. Let me hear your pitch as you would write it to me.

4. Memorize your pitch. When I took public speaking, I would memorize 5-minute speeches deliberately so if I got nervous, it wouldn’t matter. The words I was supposed to say came like second-nature to me because I’d drilled them into my head. My professor accused me of cheating when she caught on to me. My reaction, “Well, not really. But, yeah, I’ve made this easier on myself, if that’s what you mean.” Make it easier on yourself if you’re not good at pitching. Memorize it, practice it in front of people. Then, when the agent or editor is staring at you expectantly and you’re suddenly faced with putting your heart out there on the table, you’ll find comfort and familiarity in your memorized speech.

5. Don’t ramble. Get to the point right away. Your pitch doesn’t need to be more than 250 words initially. Wait for a reaction or a question from the agent or editor and then give them the information they’ve requested. Rambling will cause the person whose interest you’re trying to spark to tune out. Don’t go on and on about how you really wanted to write this, but it was too something, so you thought to write that and then it just came out as…because I’m not marvelling at your process, I’m thinking about lunch.

6. This last is really not advice, but rather a kudos/success story from my first conference. One author had written a book about ghosts. She came to the appointment with a chocolate ghost to give to me. While I won’t say you must bring me gifts when you see me, I will say that I was just tickled by this. I loved the creativity and enthusiasm it showed, I loved the chocolate, I suddenly really loved the author. I showed the ghost to my colleagues, Jessica Faust and Jessica Alvarez who were in attendance at the conference and they really liked it too. The general reception was: Huh. Neat! I think they were jealous while I chowed down on my chocolate ghost, all smiles. When asked about my pitches, The Ghost Lady is the one I remember with the most clarity. Will she be successful because of the chocolate ghost? Uh, no. But she will stand out…

What advice or anecdotes do all of you have about your conference jitters?

LR

QueryDice #15

The following is a query critique. Comments, suggestions and discussion are welcome and we hope you join in. I can only offer one opinion. The author of the query and I would love to hear yours!

Set mostly in China, as well as New York, my 82,000 word commercial contemporary women’s fiction [redacted]  will appeal to both American and Chinese readers.

When aspiring author Shui Ying leaves her diary on a Shanghai subway car, little does she know that her dream will become a reality without her knowledge, and a quest to find her will span two continents, culminating in a legal battle to prove her identity.

Interesting pitch. I can’t wait to read more…

Shui Ying is forced to leave school and move from her poor village in Sichuan to Shanghai in order to support her mother and ailing father. With no time to write, she gives up her dream of becoming a writer. Emily, an American university student majoring in Chinese culture, finds Shui Ying’s diary on a trip to Shanghai and convinces her mother, who works for a publishing company in Manhattan, to publish it. Attempts to find Shui Ying fail and Chinese authorities erroneously believe she drowned.

Shui Ying fell in love with Liang, her best friend from the village. But one day after he tells her that he loves her, they are separated when she leaves for Shanghai. Her heart is broken, but she turns her attention to finding work. Shui Ying despairs after encountering a series of unscrupulous employers, and is reunited with Liang when he saves her life. Before reuniting with Liang, she gets involved with Lau, an owner of a pet food factory from Beijing with an office in Shanghai. She writes in her diary that she’s in a love triangle.

When Liang gets a job in construction for the Beijing Olympics, Shui Ying finds a job at Lau’s factory in Beijing. When she discovers that Lau has been tampering with the pet food he manufactures, she and Liang must go into hiding. While they are running away from the thugs Lau sent to silence her, she sees her name on a book in a bookstore in Shanghai and discovers she has become famous and that she has been the object of a search. She also discovers that Leona, a young Chinese woman, has impersonated her and claims to be the author of the diary. Leona takes the American publisher to court in New York, and a jury must decide who the real author is, Leona or Shui Ying.

This query is technically passable, but I lost interest somewhere in the fourth paragraph. The love-triangle among Shui Ying, Lau and Liang is not interesting enough for me to believe someone would find this diary and want to publish it. Something really incredible needs to have happened to Shui Ying in order for someone to want to publish her book. Also, there’s the logistical problem of figuring out how a publishing house would have contracted this book without Shui Ying’s signature, without meeting her. How did they edit the book? To whom are they paying royalties and an advance? It’s a neat idea, it’s just not very believable. I would reject this, not because I don’t believe the basic idea is marketable–it probably is–or because the writing was bad–it wasn’t–but because I don’t find it credible or interesting enough to draw sufficient attention from publishers. The issue, here, is not with the query, which has done its job–inform and entice while staying true to the manuscript–but with the manuscript.
Thank you for reading my query.

LR

QueryDice #6.1 : Take Two!

The following is a query critique. Comments, suggestions and discussion are welcome and we hope you join in. I can only offer one opinion. The author of the query and I would love to hear yours!

This is the second time this author has thrown his query into the Dice. The first go is here. Big improvements. There was one paragraph of my critique that I feel still stands, although it has improved some in this area: “I think the conflict in this, while I do get a general idea of it, could be fleshed out better. I need to feel like I care about the decisions of the characters and their conflict.”

Dear Ms. Ruth:

Twenty-four-year-old Andre Reyes is a world-renowned and gifted technology consultant who will soon (I think you should add an adverb here to let us know how Andre feels about his retirement) trade in the rat race for the simple life. But when he falls for British tennis star Gemma Lennon, all his plans—and hers—take a nosedive as the love of these kindred spirits destabilizes years of hard work, planning and sacrifice.

Meeting Gemma in Paris was not in his plans, nor was falling in love. With six months left in his contract, focus is Andre’s new mantra. Complete the contract and he’ll retire in style. Breach it and the punitive damages will devastate his plans of a new start. Gemma has anxieties of her own. She is arguably the best, but without a grand slam championship, she risks going down as another celebrity-athlete who’s more celebrity than athlete. She wants to win—must win—to discredit her critics. With Andre, she’s free but unfocused. Since childhood, they’ve dedicated everything to develop their innate gifts. For the first time, youthful joy and passion replace logic and planning—at precisely the worst time.

Now, as Wimbledon looms, the paparazzi escalate their assault, Andre’s employer pressures him, Gemma’s sponsors question her commitment, and personal details leak to the press—details that only their inner-circle could have known. And when she’s blackmailed, everything unravels. Their love is a threat to those who stand to lose millions. And in love and war, anyone can be the enemy within… even those in love.

There is no longer anything technically wrong with this query. It is well-written, explains the plot briefly and accurately. It is even free of errors. I believe its only problem has nothing to do with the query itself, but rather with the manuscript. I can’t help but think there’s a huge plot-hole here: why don’t Andre and Gemma just manage their time, rather than allowing their romance to usurp their work-time? It seems like the major conflict of the novel could be so easily solved. This might be because you’ve left out a detail or two, or it could be that the conflict is just weak. Either way, I’d reject this because the conflict doesn’t seem strong enough.
As an aside, I would like more details about the main characters’ personalities. I always like a quirk or two.
[redacted], a contemporary romance novel, is complete at 94,000 words.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

[redacted]

LR

 

 

QueryDice #14

The following is a query critique. Comments, suggestions and discussion are welcome and we hope you join in. I can only offer one opinion. The author of the query and I would love to hear yours!

Dear Ms. Ruth,

I would be delighted to submit for your consideration, Sidewalk Flower, my dark, romantic women’s fiction novel which is complete at just under 104,000 words.

In Sidewalk Flower, a musician’s assistant determined to leave the seedy grit of Rock Star, California for the downhome love of her southern boyfriend must endure one last cruel night in her old world first.

Ironically, the above sentence, which serves as both the introduction to and summary of your book, is too long but doesn’t tell us enough. Unfortunately, the result of this is a shrug from me. I’m thinking, “So? And?”

My gut tells me there’s something interesting here. The title is intriguing, as is the main character’s vocation. You’ve got 104,000 words that you’ve attempted to sum up in less than 40. I’d like your query to be roughly 250 words, give or take.

I think I can speak for my readers, too, when I say I’d like to see a do-over!

While as yet unpublished, I am a member of RWA, my local WRW chapter, and the women fiction writers group, Waterworld Mermaids.

I greatly appreciate your time and consideration and hope to hear from you if my work seems a good fit.

Sincerely,

[redacted]

QueryDice #13

The following is a query critique. Comments, suggestions and discussion are welcome and we hope you join in. I can only offer one opinion. The author of the query and I would love to hear yours!

Dear Agent, (I’ve said this before, but always address your query letter to a specific agent so we know you’ve done your research rather than querying blindly all over the place.)

On the first day of camp, Abbey realizes a horrible mistake has been made—she’s stranded at the wrong camp.

I’m interested, I know the audience, and I’m definitely going to read on. However, I’m immediately wondering how this is even possible. They call attendance at camp and account for the children. Abbey would have been noticed immediately as someone who does not belong there. How did she even get to the second day? I’m worried, now, that your manuscript will be problematic because events are not explained properly or are unlikely. After reading the whole query, I don’t think you need this sentence at all. It is irrelevant to the ghostliness that happens in the story, based on this query, and it only makes me question the logistics of that happening.

On the second, Abbey is faced with the consequence of being a lifetime “spook magnet.” The River Falls camp—which has its own spooky history—turns Abbey’s spook-ometer up to 11.

This paragraph makes little sense to me, although I vaguely get the sense that if I had written this or read the whole thing, it would make a lot more sense. What is a “spook magnet” and why was she faced with this consequence? What is a spook-ometer?

This is a case of being too close to the work you’ve done. You’ve lost perspective. Take a few weeks during which you won’t think about the story, the manuscript or the query and then come back to it with a fresh mind.

The third day begins with cold spots and moving furniture, quickly escalating to a paranormal freakshow with a field of dead frogs, a ghostly stalker and mysterious symbols carved into the wall.

This is pretty interesting and fun.

The first week ends with Abbey trying to figure out the meaning behind the symbols—as they intrude into her life with increasing urgency.

How have the symbols intruded into Abbey’s life if she’s only been there a week and the first day had nothing ghostly about it?

Abbey’s ghostly experiences were a curse growing up, costing her dearly and leaving her scarred and friendless at 14 years.

This sentence seems thrown-in. I’m not sure it needs to be in this query letter at all, but if you must put it in, I think it belongs in the first paragraph.

The final week of camp features a scavenger hunt which turns deadly as lightning strikes—leaving Abbey trapped in a burning building with a boy she likes, a mean girl she doesn’t and her drama queen roommate.

Are these people—the roommate, the mean girl and the crush—integral to the story? If not, they have no business stealing so many of your 250 query-words.

Abbey can use her curse to save their lives by reaching into another world for help.

She can? What?! She has a special power she knew about and we find out this late in the query? If the ghostliness of the camp is mixing with her ghostly past, and she has a power of some sort, all of this should be exposed in the first or second paragraph.

The trouble is, this help threatens to consume her, which could cost Abbey her new friends—as well as her very humanity.

What exactly is the conflict here? Abbey is stranded at the wrong camp. That certainly is a problem, but she doesn’t work to solve it so this is not the central conflict, I take it. The conflict, then, must be that she risks something to help herself and her new friends. But this seems to happen so far into the query that it doesn’t seem central to the book. Also, it seems more like a conclusion since it happens at the end of the query and in Abbey’s last week of camp.

This query read more like a very incomplete synopsis. I don’t need to know what happens on each day or what happens at the end of each week. What I do need to know is what conflict is central to this story, and how and why Abbey rises to meet that conflict.

Lastly, you haven’t introduced any other themes that are in your novel. There is just a ghostliness. How about Abbey’s emotional landscape? What else is going on in her life? Successful YA literature tends to incorporate themes important to young adults with something fun, scary or shocking. I do not see that here and for that reason most of all, I would reject this query.

[redacted] is a 56,000 word young adult novel with a paranormal theme.

I have written professionally in advertising and marketing for over a decade.

I’m querying you because of your passion for young adult literature and your love of scary ghost stories.

How do you know I like scary ghost stories? I’ve never publicly announced this. Be wary of claiming you know the agent likes something. Make sure they’ve announced that somewhere official or that they’ve told you this directly.

Thank you for your time,

[redacted]

LR

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