Archive for the ‘editors’ Category

COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS FOR AUTHORS

February 6, 2008

COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS FOR AUTHORS

 

There are a lot of tools you, as a new author trying to pitch your book, can use to help you stand out from the pack.  Over the next few blogs I’ll be discussing some of those (and in earlier blogs I talked about good form in query letters).

 

One really useful tool is variously known as the ‘competitive analysis’, ‘marketplace analysis’, ‘market list’, or ‘submission list’.

 

This is a list of books that define the genre and identify the audience where your book would be accepted.  Remember, pitching a book is a sales process, so you have to help the agents and editors see the profit potential in your product.  The book has to fit onto an established shelf at a bookstore –and knowing which shelf can make or break your pitch.

 

For example, in Barnes & Noble there is no ‘horror’ shelf.  Novels that would ordinarily fit there are scattered onto different shelves.  Most of them wind up in the general ‘Fiction and Literature’ section, which is not a bad place to be, especially if you’re looking for a broad audience.  Some, however wind up in ‘Science Fiction/Fantasy’, because the fan base is more genre-based.  Laurell K. Hamilton and Jim Butcher are both in that section, and because the publishers know that the SF/comic book/fantasy crowds are the core demographic they keep those books there and they do well.  But new shelves are emerging, such as ‘Paranormal Romance’ (authors like L.A. Banks, Sherrilyn Kenyon, etc.)

 

I suggest creating a list of 6-12 authors whose works most closely resonate with your own.  This identifies those publishers who have known track records for handling your kind of work.  Most writers don’t know about these lists, but when they do and can offer them up front to an agent it shows market savvy and a willingness to partner in the sales process that many agents find very appealing.  Editors appreciate the lists because it’s something they can take to the marketing department and publisher to get approval to buy your book.

 

It’s also useful for any novelist as a way of identifying the genre/subgenre where they would ideally like their book placed. 

 

Sublists should be a mix of recent hot sellers (which establishes that the genre is making money), a few enduring classics (showing that the genre has staying power), and a few recent deals (showing that the genre is active right now).  These recent deals can be found by searching databases such as www.publishersmarketplace.com

 

For pitching, say, a supernatural thriller, the entries would likely include:

 

  1. SALEM’S LOT by Stephen King; Signet; paperback; 1976; 496 pages
  2. THEY THIRST by Robert McCammon; Kinnell; 1981; 552 pages
  3. GHOST STORY by Peter Straub; Coward, McCann & Geoghegan; 1979; 483 pages
  4. GHOST ROAD BLUES by Jonathan Maberry; Pinnacle Books; 2006; 480 pages

Etc.

 

When I query I often offer a competitive analysis.  Often this results in the editor/agent taking the next step and asking for it, along with the synopsis and sample chapters.  Some might want to have the list emailed to them before deciding whether to ask for the manuscript.  In all cases it shows that you are sharper and more business focused than most aspiring authors.  Or as Stephen King would say, “It’s one more tool in your writer’s toolbox.”

 

-Jonathan Maberry  www.jonathanmaberry.com

 

Myspace: www.myspace.com/jonathan_maberry

 

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THE LIAR’S CLUB

February 1, 2008

The writing life is always interesting but it isn’t always fun.  Most writers don’t make enough cash; reviewers can be savage; with the sagging economy book sales are down; and publishers mostly don’t spend much bread on promotion. 

To want to be a professional author you really need a lot of optimism, or you need to be just on the useful side of delusional.  Often both.  One of the key elements to making this wacky profession work is ‘networking’.  Two writers together can do more than two writers alone.  Not exactly a new concept, but it’s nice to discover that it still works.

 

Yesterday I met with three friends who are also professional authors and together we created a new organization: THE LIAR’S CLUB.  (Why that name?  Well…let’s face it, we’re authors, we make stuff up for a living.)  We started the group to network with each other authors, but over the course of a long and very funny lunch at the Irish Pub in Philly, we agreed that we could also do a lot of good for the writing and reading community.  So…were cooking up plans to do joint signings, workshops, panel discussions, speaking engagements, contests, mentoring and more. 

 

The one certain thing is that we’re going to have fun.  No doubt about it.  But I got a feeling that Liar’s Club is going to make itself heard.  Count on it.

 

Here are the founding members:

  L. A. Banks (www.leslieesdailebanks.com), author of the insanely popular Vampire Huntress series of novels. 

Gregory Frost  (www.gregoryfrost.com) author of, among other things, the recent Random House release SHADOWBRIDGE.

 

Jon McGoran  (www.jmcgoran.com), who writes forensics mysteries under the pen name of D. H. Dublin.  The third in that series, FREEZER BURN will be out in June.

 And my website is www.jonathanmaberry.com 

There are some other folks who will be joining us.  I’ll catch you up on those later

 

Right now, do yourself a favor and check out my co-conspirators in the Liar’s Club!

  

The Patry Francis Blog Event –THE LIAR’S DIARY

January 29, 2008

The Patry Francis Blog Event –THE LIAR’S DIARY

Last year I had the opportunity to meet Patry Francis (http://www.patryfrancis.com/) at the BackSpace event at the Algonquin in NYC.   Her first novel, THE LIAR’S DIARY, had hit stores in February 2007 and I snagged a copy to read back at my hotel.  Yowzah.  Talk about your compelling reads!  I’ve been a big fan of this book since its release, and in my writing classes I often said that Patry was “an author to watch”.

Then I heard that Patry was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and that the fates seemed determined to silence this magnificent new literary voice.  The news sent shockwaves through the book world.  We were all shocked, all stunned, and every one of us felt impossibly helpless.  We’re writers…what the hell can we do?

Silly question.

 A could of good-hearted folks, Susan Henderson and Laura Benedict  cooked up the idea of getting the blogging authors to step up and support Patry by helping to promote the paperback release of LIAR’S DIARY.  When my friend, Karen Dionne (of BackSpace) asked me if I’d like to help I jumped right in… and found that there were over 300 of us working to make that book a major hit.  It’ll help Patry financially, sure, but more importantly it’ll show her that there is love and support out there.  That kind of good will can move mountains and maybe it can apply some leverage to the healing process.    

Here’s a link to the book-trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jD31Ip3y3Gk

Here’s a link to an audio sample http://www.audiobookstand.com/clips/liarsdiary924.mp3

Go find the book on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Liars-Diary-Patry-Francis/dp/0452289157/ref=reader_req_dp

Be a friend by telling a friend.

Join with folks all across the country who are standing together in this.  And…hey, it’s also a hell of a good book.

If you need an incentive, then the first ten people who send me proof that they’ve purchased the book from Amazon will receive signed copies of my next book, BAD MOON RISING before anyone else gets it.  As soon as I get my author copies I’ll sign ‘em and ship ‘em to the first folks who email me proof of purchase.  (And…hey, let’s write some reviews for her, too!)

PARTICIPATING AUTHORS IN THE PATRY FRANCIE BLOGTASTIC EVENT


Mario Acevedo
Susan Adrian
Samina Ali
Christa Allan
Anne-Marie
Joelle Anthony
Jorge Argueta
Melanie Avila
Tricia Ares
Backspace
Backstory
Terry Bain
Gail Baker – The Debutante Ball
Anjali Banerjee
Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Elizabeth Bartasius
Carolyn Burns Bass
Brett Battles
Laura Benedict
Pinckney Benedict
Janet Berliner
William Bernhardt
Alexander Besher
Bev
Marcie Beyatte
Brenda Birch
Roberto Bonazzi
Bookfinds
Raven Bower
Laura Bowers
Beatrice Bowles
Tara Bradford
Gayle Brandeis
Stacy Brazalovich
Susan Breen – Gotham Writers Workshops
Heather Brewer
Eve Bridburg – Zachary Shuster Harmsworth
Sassy Brit
Heatheraynne Brooks
Josie Brown
Pat Brown
Ruth Brown
Ken Bruen
Rachel Kramer Bussel
Aldo Calcagno
Austin S. Camacho
Bill Cameron
Lorenzo Carcaterra
Vincent Carrella
Karen DeGroot Carter
Rosemary Carstens
Cynthia Clark – Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine
Jon Clinch
Kamela Cody
Oline H. Cogdill – Sun-Sentinal
Tish Cohen
Eileen Cruz Coleman
Myfanwy Collins
Laurie Connors – Penguin
Eileen Cook
Richard Cooper
David Corbett
Auria Cortes
Bill Crider – Pop Culture Magazine
Kim Cristofoli
Ann Mare Cummins
Sheila Curran
Kristie Cutter
Jordan Dane
Josephine Damian
Daryl Darko
A.J. Davis
Kelli Davis
Alyssa Day
Alma Hromic Deckert
Jim DeFelice
Mike Dellosso
Katrina Denza
Bella DePaulo
Karen Dionne
Felicia Donovan
Julie Doughty – Dutton
Gerry Doyle
Firoozeh Dumas
Christine Eldrin
J.T. Ellison – Killer Year
Sheila Clover English – Circle of Seven Productions
Kate Epstein – the Epstein Literary Agency
Kathryn Esplin
Rachel Fershleiser at SMITH Magazine
Ryan Field
Michael A. FitzGerald
William Floyd
Natasha Fondren
Jamie Ford
Connie May Fowler
Heather Fowler
Therese Fowler
Jenifer Fox
Thaisa Frank
Michelle Gable
Gary Gach
Leighton Gage
Neil Gaiman
Colin Galbraith
Jayson Gallaway
Jane Ganahl – Red Room
Erika-Marie S. Geiss
Linda Gerber
Shane Gericke
Tess Gerritsen
Karin Gillespie
Anne Glamore
Kathi Kamen Goldmark
Jewelle Gomez
Susan Helene Gottfried
Deborah Grabien
Elizabeth Graham
Caroline Grant
Robin Grantham
Bob Gray – Shelf Awareness
Nancy O. Greene
Robert Grudin
Lisa Guidarini
David Habbin
Jim Hanas
Lynette Hart
Melanie Harvey
Michael Haskins
Melanie Lynn Hauser
Bill Hayes
Maria Dahvana Headley
Susan Henderson
Heidi the Hick
Georgia Hesse
Billie Hinton
Vicki Hinze
Lori Hope
Khaled Hosseini
Eileen Hutton – Brilliance Audio
Gina Hyams
International Thriller Writers
David Isaak
Susan Ito
Lisa Jackson
Arachne Jericho
Allison Johnson
Jen Jordan – Crimespree
Jungle Red Writers
Lesley Kagen
Polly Kahl
Jessica Keener
Charles Kelly
Lisa Kenny
Jackie Kessler
Merle Kessler
Kristy Kiernan – Southern Authors Blog
A.S. King
Jeff Kleinman – Folio Literary Management
Sandra Kring
Kyra
R.D. Laban
Rebecca Laffar-Smith – Writers Roundabout
Clair Lamb
Daphne Larkin
Larramie
Judy Merrill Larson
Caroline Leavitt
Leah
Virginia Lee
Leslie Levine
Mary Lewis
Richard Lewis
Liane
Sharon Linnea
Julie Anne Long
CJ Lyons
Jonathan Maberry
Amy MacKinnon – The Writers Group
Tim Maleeny
Ric Marion
Nancy Martin
Adrienne Mayor
L.C. McCabe
Ellen Meister
Melba
Christa Miller
Kyle Minor
Jacquelyn Mitchard
P. A. Moed
Terri Molina
Pat Montandon
David Montgomery
Alexis Moore
Joe Moore – Inkspot
Amanda Morgan
Sarie Morrell
Murderati
Amy Nathan
“Nathalie”
Tia Nevitt
Nicole
Carolyn North
Martha O’Connor
Andrea Okrentowich
Lori Olivia
Aimee Palooza
Pamela
Michael Palmer
Stephen Parrish
Marie Peck
Marcia Peterson – WOW! Women on Writing
Jason Pinter
Anthony S. Policastro
Douglas Preston
Terese Ramin
Jody Reale
Martha Reed
Janet Reid – FinePrint Literary Management
Kamilla Reid
Lance Reynald
Michelle Richmond
Maria Robinson
John Robison
James Rollins
M.J. Rose – Buzz, Balls & Hype
Renee Rosen
Jordan Rosenfeld
Russell Rowland
Anneli Rufus
Hank Ryan
Marcus Sakey
Harris Salat -Visual Thesaurus
Rachel Sarah
Maria Schneider – Writer’s Digest Magazine
Nina Schuyler
Dani Shapiro
Rochelle Shapiro
Charles Shaughnessy
Jessie Sholl
Robert Siegel
Clea Simon
Lynn Sinclair
Shelley Singer
Sisters in Crime
Robin Slick
BPM Smith – Word & Bass
Bridget Smith
Claudia Smith
Kim Smith
Stephie Smith
Alexandra Sokoloff
Char Solomon
James Spring
Emilie Staat
Maryanne Stahl
Bella Stander
Kelli Stanley
Marta Stephens
Bronwyn Storm
Jennifer Talty
Judith Tannenbaum
Mindy Tarquini
Charles R. Temple
Theresa
The Outfit
David Thayer
Joyce Tremel
Danielle Trussoni
Louise Ure
N. L. Valler
Barbara Vey – Publishers Weekly
Bev Vincent
Brenda Wallace
Therese Walsh – Writer Unboxed
John Warner – Tow Books
Gary Wassner
Brenda Webster
Sarah Weinman
Kimberly M. Wetherell
Dan Wickett – Emerging Writers Network
Jennifer Weiner
Laura Wellner
Susan Wiggs
Liz Wolfe
Cheryl Wyatt
Stephen Wylder
Irvin Yalom
Belle Yang
Dawn Yun
Michele Zackheim
Victoria Zackheim
Ernie Zelinski
Crystal Zevon

  

FINDING AN AGENT Part 3

January 21, 2008

Okay…now we’re onto the next phase of finding a literary agent. 

When you have your manuscript nice and clean, then the next stage is to build that list of agents.  First, a quick recap of one important bit: I recommend using www.publishersmarketplace.com to search for recent deals in your genre/subgenre.  Look for deals by the significant authors in your genre.  The deal listings will name the agent who represented the book and the editor who purchased it.  Here’s an example of a one of my own deal listings from Publishers Marketplace.

Bram Stoker Award-winner Jonathan Maberry’s PATIENT ZERO, in which a Baltimore police detective is recruited by a secret government organization to help stop a group of terrorists from launching a weaponized plague against America that turns its citizens into zombies, to Jason Pinter at St. Martin’s, in a three-book deal (including PATIENT ZERO), by Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger.

When you see “to” before a name, that’s the editor;  “by” indicates the agent.

You can then do searches on the editor to see the other books they’ve bought (and the agents who repped them), and you can search the agents by name.  You can also search the categories (fiction debut, thriller, young adult, etc.) and that’ll pull up a couple of years’ worth of listings.

Make sure you double-check to see if the agent and/or editor is still at that firm before you pitch.  These folks move like nomads.  For example, the editor who bought my books at St. Martin’s Press, Jason Pinter, is no longer there.  He scored his own book deal and has left editing to writer crime novels for Mira.

Also, when compiling your list of agents you have to remember that the better ones typically have very few spots left on their lists, and that means that they’ll be very picky when agreeing to look at works from new authors.  You have to pitch the hell out of it.

In one of my earlier blogs I posted a sample of a book pitch letter to an agent.  Go take a look at that.  I landed an agent with that letter; students of mine have used variations on it to sell their works.

Okay, so now you have your list and your query letter.  The next step is to get that letter out to everyone on your agent list.  Never do the one-at-a-time method.  Years pass, you get old, stars burn out to carbon cinders before you get through the whole list.  This is your career, be pro-active.

The way I did it, I sent ten copies of that letter out to agents.  I got six go-aheads to submit material (four partials and two complete manuscripts). 

Normally agents take anywhere from 3 months to an entire age of the world to get back to you.  They’re busy, yeah I get that.  I suggest following up with a note or an email after a few weeks, just to see if they’re aware that it’s in their office.  Some may snap back at you for pestering them.  Too bad, this is business and follow-up is a part of any business.  The trick is to be very brief, business formal, and business casual.  Something like:

“Dear Kira,

Just following up to see if you received the partial on BIG FAT NOVEL, which you requested last month. 

Regards
Joe Schmoe”

When approaching an agent, here’s what you should have ready:

QUERY LETTER:  Use good quality stationary and matching envelopes; do not hand write anything except your signature; include either a self-addressed and stamped envelope, or SASE, or request a reply via email.  Or both.
COMPLETE MANUSCRIPT:  Have it clean, edited, and in final draft.  Never query with an unfinished manuscript –not unless you already have an agent and books in print.  NOTE: Your manuscript should be in Times New Roman (or Courier), 12 point type, double-spaced, with the default margins of Microsoft Word.  Paragraphs should be indented and there should be no spaces between paragraphs.  Print only in black on paper that is 94 or 96 brightness (or better).  Don’t bother with expensive watermarked paper; just make sure it’s as bright and opaque as possible.  I also BOLD the entire manuscript as it creates better contrast between paper and ink, which makes it easier on the eyes of the editor or agent.  This courtesy costs a little extra, but courtesy is always appreciated.  Also, when mailing the manuscript, mark the envelope with REQUESTED MATERIALS; otherwise it’ll vanish into a slush pile somewhere.

MARKETPLACE ANALYSIS:  This is a list of books that would in your same genre/subgenre.  List about a dozen and include the title, author, publisher (including imprint), date of original publication, page count and format (paperback, trade paperback, or hardcover).  I usually offer this in my query and include it, asked or unasked, with the manuscript.  You want the agent (or editor) to know where you think your book belongs; you want to make it clear that it’s part of an established genre; and you want to send a message that the genre is active.  This marketplace analysis is your argument that your book can and will sell because there is a ready market out there made up of readers of these other authors.

SYNOPSIS: Have a short 3-5 page synopsis of the entire story, written in present tense (weird, yeah, but that’s how they do it).  Be lively and have fun with the writing.  Run this by a few friends to see how it reads, and try reading it aloud to look for clunky sentences.

Now you’re ready to roll.

There’s more to say on finding an agent (particularly in regards to networking), so we’ll come back to this topic later this week.

Good luck!
Jonathan Maberry 
 

FINDING AN AGENT Pt 2 – AVOIDING SCAMS

January 18, 2008

 FINDING AN AGENT Pt 2

 

After you’ve made the “Hey, I need an agent!” decision, the next step is to identify the right one for you.  And the first step in that is to make sure you don’t fall prey to some of the many, many unscrupulous agents in the business.

 

Literary agents get 15% of your gross and that fee is taken out of the checks sent from a publisher.  They also get percentages of foreign sales, film rights, etc., but the bottom line is that agents make their living off of fees based on actual sales.  And, take note, you’ll know the exact amount of your advance from the contract you sign with the publisher and you’ll get an end of year accounting from the agent that clearly shows what monies were received by the publisher, the amount of their fee-based deduction, and the monies disbursed to you.  With royalties you’ll be given a copy of the royalties breakdown, which is sent by the publisher to the agent along with the royalties check.  The agent will deduct the agency fee and send a check along with a copy of the royalties breakdown to you. 

 

Since I posted the first part of this thread the other day I’ve received a lot of email from writers who have been gouged by agents who charge all sorts of fees: submission fees, reading fees, evaluation fees, marketing fees, and even editing fees.  Even though these practices are technically legal (though prohibited by agent trade organizations), I always advise my students and friends to avoid those agents like the plague.  An agent living off of incremental pre-sale fees is in business to make those fees.  There’s no incentive for them to ever sell anything. 

 

Some agents will offer to sell additional services, such as website design, PR kits, catalog placement for book events and fairs, print and Internet ads, book cover designs (publishers always use their own designs, so these would be a pointless waste of cash), business cards, writing class enrollments, etc.  These are all money-gouging scams.

 

There are exceptions, sure.  Some good agents do charge fees for copying and postage.  Of all the fees discussed those are the ones a writer might agree to.  Making copies of a hefty manuscript and mailing copies around is expensive.  Okay, that one’s a maybe.  But if they ask for submission or reading fees then look elsewhere.

 

I know a lot of agents, and every legitimate agent I know holds most kinds of fee-charging agents in contempt.  Yes, I understand it’s a way for a start-up agency to get operating capital.  Sorry, I have no sympathy for that.  Take out a business loan or mortgage your house –don’t fleece the author.

 

Agents that charge to edit your book are also suspicious.  More often a good agent who likes your book but believes it to need work will suggest that you go out and find a book editor (not a book doctor –a topic for another time) and then come back with the revised version.  They will seldom if ever even suggest an editor.   It’s an ethical point, a conflict of interest.

 

Freelance editors abound (but check them out, too).  Get references if you can and follow up with those references.  A rare few agents may work with you to edit your book, but this is less common and it chews up an agent’s time.

 

I’ve heard of a few agents who routinely steer their clients toward self-publishing, POD (print on demand), vanity press, e-publishing, or other services where the author has to pay some or all of the expense of having their book published, distributed, or placed.  Don’t go there.  Legitimate agents SELL your book, they don’t pimp it for vanity press ‘publishers’.

 

There’s a great resource for writers who want to check to see if an agent has a shady track record.  http://anotherealm.com/prededitors/pubagent.htm is great.  It’s not complete, of course, but it’s pretty damn far-reaching.

 

Also, there’s a pretty scathing expose of these fee-based agents, TEN PERCENT OF NOTHING: The Case of the Literary Agent from Hell by former FBI agent Jim Fisher (Southern Illinois University Press, 2004; hardback).  And check out THE STREET SMART WRITER: Self Defense Against Sharks and Scams in the Writing World by Jenna Glatzer and Daniel Steven (Nomad Press, 2006; trade paperback). 

 

In my next blog we’ll talking about how to build a target list of reputable agents who are positioned to sell your kind of book and have the track-record and connections to do so.

 

Please feel free to use this blog thread to share your experiences (good and bad) with finding agents.  The more everyone knows, the better everyone’s chances are in getting sold without getting fleeced.

 

If you have a question you don’t want to post on the blog thread, drop me an email at jonathan_maberry@yahoo.com

 

Tune in tomorrow and until then…write like you mean it!

 

Jonathan Maberry                  www.jonathanmaberry.com

   

FINDING AN AGENT –Part 1

January 16, 2008

For the first twenty-five years of my writing career I didn’t have a literary agent.  Most of my early sales were magazine features and columns for which you don’t use an agent; and then a few textbook sales which tend to yield money so small an agent would like set himself on fire rather than bother with making that kind of deal.

  

When I decided to try and break into fiction  –something totally new for me—I figured I needed an agent.  Now I needed to find one.  Any writer who hits that moment realizes how daunting it is.  Unsigned writers fear agents because they know that to a very great degree there’s no way to get sold without one.

  

First thing I did was to ask everyone I know who had an agent for suggestions on how to go about finding one.  They all said the same thing, and the advice they gave SOUNDED right at first, but the more I thought about it the less I liked it.  What they said was: “Find a low-level or mid-level agent, someone who is just getting in the business, and sign with them.  They’re the only ones looking to take on new clients and you can rise with them.”

  

Sounds good, right?  Sounds reasonable.  Think again.

  

Business is all about messaging.  There’s always a subtext to anything said in business.   That said, think of the message that you send out if you only try for agents who are either bottom-rung or brand new to the business.  It says: “My work isn’t good enough to be represented by a top agent.” Sadly that message comes across loud and clear.

  

That didn’t work for me.  I have more faith in my writing than that (as subjective as that might be) and I wanted a really good agent.

  

So I sat back and thought about who and what an agent is and made some reasonable deductions: 

  Agents are human.  Not Olympian gods.  I’d met some at writers conferences.  None of them had horns, none of them threw lightning bolts. 

Agents are working stiffs, too.  There have to be good and bad agents.  There have to be lucky or unlucky agents.  There have to be rising stars and has-beens.  There have to well-connected agents and those to whom most doors are still closed.  That’s the way every business is, no matter what business we’re talking about.

  

Some of today’s top writers are still repped by the agents that handled their first works.  The biggest deals are made by agents on the inside track of the business.  Read the market news, this bears out most of the time.  If so, then big agents must be taking on new clients (who then go on to make big money).

  

One of the common pieces of good advice for writers trying to find an agent is to look in the dedication and acknowledgments pages of books by writers of the same genre.  Writers often thank their agents (and editors) and that’s a great way of beginning to build a target list.

 

Other resources include using www.publishersmarketplace.com (which costs $20/month) and http://www.agentquery.com/search.aspx (free) to search for agents whose recent track record shows that they have the chops and connections to make decent deals for authors.  It’s worth checking those resources to see who is representing debut authors as well.

  

Tomorrow we’ll talk about the next steps to take. 

  Keep Writing!Jonathan  Jonathan Maberry (my author website)www.jonathanmaberry.com Career Doctor for Writers  (my consulting business)www.careerdoctorforwriters.com Writers Corner USA (the writers center I co-founded)www.writerscornerusa.com 

MySpace:  www.myspace.com/jonathan_maberry

January 14, 2008

BAD MOON RISING

 

Only four months and counting…

 

BAD MOON RISING, the final book of the Pine Deep Trilogy (which began with 2006’s GHOST ROAD BLUES and continued with 2007’s DEAD MAN’S SONG) will be released everywhere on May 8. 

 

I’m getting pretty excited about the release of BAD MOON RISING, and for a number of reasons.  First, the book has one hell of a lot of action in it.  The growing threat discussed in the first two books explodes in the third and the second half of that book is basically one big, rolling battle between the dwindling forces of good and the swelling forces of evil.  The dead rise to attack the world of the living with a Red Wave of murder.  I had sooooo much fun writing that book.

 

The book also has a fun twist in that I’ve written a lot of real-world people into the book.  I tapped a number of good folks in the horror industry and asked if I could write them into the story.  Since the book deals with a massive Halloween celebration (during which very bad things happen) I wanted to have some fun with blurring the lines between reality and fantasy.  So… I contacted a bunch of friends in the horror biz and asked if I could write them into the book.  They all agreed, so in BAD MOON RISING you can expect to meet TOM SAVINI (make-effects wizard), STEPHEN SUSCO (screenwriter for the Grudge flicks), JAMES GUNN (screenwriter of the new Dawn of the Dead), BRINKE STEVENS (scream queen), DEBBIE ROCHON (scream queen), KEN FOREE (star of the original Dawn of the Dead), JIM O’REAR (stuntman and haunted attraction consultant), and JOE BOB BRIGGS (drive-in movie critic and actor).  Also making a brief appearance is MEM SHANNON (one of my all-time favorite Bluesmen!).

 

And these folks aren’t just doing walk-ons.  They actually get into the action.  Question is…will they make it out of Pine Deep alive?

 

This is going to be fun!

 

Jonathan Maberry

www.jonathanmaberry.com

 

BRILLIANT YOUNG WRITERS

January 10, 2008

One of the highlights of my week is a 90-minute class I teach on Wednesdays –Novels for Young Writers.  Currently there are seven students in the group: one boy and six girls, ranging in age from 13 to 16.

 

This group of young writers (and I try never to use the word ‘kids’ around minds as keen as theirs) signed on to learn the basics of how to write a YA (young adult) novel.  But we quickly expanded our format to include poetry, short stories, and even scripts.  Each week I give a short talk on some aspect of either the craft of writing or the business of publishing.

 

The real fun of each class, however, are the experimental writing exercises we do in class.  I think it’s boring to just write, critique, rewrite, blah, blah, blah.  That tends to keep writers locked into a certain range, and quite often it either narrows the limits of their own skill or keeps them from exploring ways to cross those limits.  Soooo….I used my teen class to see how we can break through those glass ceilings.

 

Each week I give two or three exercises, and each week the students dazzle me.  They think differently than adults do, probably because they haven’t yet been made to conform to ‘ordinary’ thinking.  They break conventions on a regular basis.  They demonstrate insight that adults probably never expect in writers that young.  And they learn fast.  Lordy, lordy do these so-called ‘kids’ learn fast.

 

The writing they do the first week or two is safe, controlled.  They haven’t yet learned to trust their own intellect or value the complexity of their own imagination.  The writing the do in the following weeks and months is totally different.

 

Sure, there are current limits to diction, style, etc, but each time I see them and listen as they read their latest work I see those limits being pushed back or disregarded entirely.

 

We did some experiments where I placed a big and complex piece of quartz crystal on the table in the classroom and asked them first to describe it as they would in a story written for their peers.  Then I asked them to describe it to someone who was blind from birth.  Then to describe it to someone who has been blind since early childhood.  And so on.  Each time we tried the exercise the students had to realign their thinking; they had to find new ways of expressing themselves based on shifting needs and expectations in the target audience.

 

Each time we do one of these writing exercises I’m both delighted and totally blown away.  Next week I’m going to ask them if I can post some of their work in a future blog.  You’ll see.

 

Happy Writing, folks

Jonathan Maberry

www.jonathanmaberry.com

 

Writers Corner USA

www.writerscornerusa.com

Magazine Query Letter

January 8, 2008

Last week I posted a query for pitching a novel.  Today I’m picking up that thread and posting a query for a magazine article. 

NOTE:  A couple of folks have asked if you need to query a short story, and the answer is definitely “no”.  Just submit.   

For queries, there are a lot of different formats, but here are the ones I’ve used successfully over the last few decades.  The first is a standard SNAIL MAIL query, which leads with a thematic hook; the other is an EMAIL query that leads with credentials/platform.   

  *****************************************   

EMAIL VERSION 

Mary Smith, Editor  / KidStuff 

I am the author of 20 nonfiction books and over 1100 articles, many of them about safety awareness for families.  I’m also a martial arts instructor with forty-five years experience, and have taught thousands of classes and workshops on safety for children and families.

 Kids don’t need to learn how to fight…they need to learn how not to.  Martial arts classes don’t teach kids how to get into fights, they teach them courage, self-respect, and confidence.  These are qualities that help children steer clear of violence. This is the primary focus of the modern martial arts school, and it’s a healthy, positive, and very powerful method that is working wonders with today’s kids. 

My article, Happy, Safe and Strong: Martial Arts for Today’s Kids, discusses how martial arts such as karate, judo, taekwondo and other ostensibly combative systems have been modified to meet the real needs of growing kids.  Instead of violence, the kids are taught values; instead of aggression they’re taught discipline; and instead of fear they are taught to understand and appreciate the differences  –and similarities– between themselves and their classmates. 

The article features interviews with parents and kids, and discussions with martial arts instructors who are on the cutting edge of this new way of teaching health, fitness, values, and strength to kids. 

The article runs 2000 words and would be ready for mailing within two weeks of your request to look it over.  The piece is illustrated with wonderful color photos, and model releases are available. I look forward to working with you on this entertaining project.    

Kindest Regards

Jonathan Maberry

PO Box 84

Warrington PA 18966

Home: (215) 555-1234

Cell: (215) 808-0945

Email: jonathan_maberry@yahooc.com

Website: http://www.jonathanmaberry.com   

******************************************

SNAIL MAIL VERSION

 Jonathan Maberry

PO Box 84

Warrington PA 18966

Home: (215) 555-1234

Cell: (215) 808-0945

Email: jonathan_maberry@yahoo.com

Website: http://www.jonathanmaberry.com

November 25, 2003

 Mary Smith, EditorKidStuff
123
Play Ave.
New York  NY  10017-5514
 

Dear Ms. Smith, 

Kids don’t need to learn how to fight…they need to learn how not to.  Martial arts classes don’t teach kids how to get into fights, they teach them courage, self-respect, and confidence.  These are qualities that help children steer clear of violence. This is the primary focus of the modern martial arts school, and it’s a healthy, positive, and very powerful method that is working wonders with today’s kids. 

My article, Happy, Safe and Strong: Martial Arts for Today’s Kids, discusses how martial arts such as karate, judo, taekwondo and other ostensibly combative systems have been modified to meet the real needs of growing kids.  Instead of violence, the kids are taught values; instead of aggression they’re taught discipline; and instead of fear they are taught to understand and appreciate the differences  –and similarities– between themselves and their classmates. 

The article features interviews with parents and kids, and discussions with martial arts instructors who are on the cutting edge of this new way of teaching health, fitness, values, and strength to kids. 

The article runs 2000 words and would be ready for mailing within two weeks of your request to look it over.  The piece is illustrated with wonderful color photos, and model releases are available. 

Since 1979 I’ve sold 1100 articles and short stories and am the author of sixteen nonfiction books and three novels.  I’m a founding partner in The Writers Center USA in Doylestown, PA and regularly teach at writers’ conferences.  I’m also a martial arts instructor myself and have taught the art to adults and kids for 45 years.

 I look forward to working with you on this entertaining project.  Please respond via email to info@jonathanmaberry.com.     

 Kindest Regards 

 Jonathan Maberry 

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Keep queries to one page, get to the point, and make sure you deliver what you promise.  Hope this helps.  If you don’t want to post a comment or question, feel free to hit me via email at jonathan_maberry@yahoo.com 

Happy writing! 

Jonathan Maberry

www.jonathanmaberry.com 

Editorial services    www.careerdoctorforwriters.com 

Writers Corner USA   www.writerscornerusa.com   

Query Pt 2 Pitching Your Novel

January 4, 2008

Yesterday I posted a blog about query letters, and aside from a handful of comments posted here I got something along the lines of eight hundred emails.  Yowzah!  It’s great to hear from so many folks. I promised to post a couple of query letter samples, and I’m going to do that today and tomorrow. 

  Today I’m posting a query for a novel.  It’s actually the query I used to pitch my first novel, Ghost Road Blues, to a bunch of New York agents.  I pitched it to the ten agents whose track-record and connections I felt would give my book the best chance.  In another blog I’ll discuss how I found an agent (it’s not as hard as it sounds). For today though, let’s look at the basic query: 

Jonathan Maberry

PO Box 84

Southampton PA 18966

Email: Jonathan_maberry@yahoo.com

http://www.jonathanmaberry.com  

August 22, 2004

 Joe Bloggs

The Big Literary Agency

100 Success Street

New York, NY 10000 Dear

Mr. Bloggs, 

Pine Deep, PA has always had a reputation for being ‘the most haunted town in America’; they’ve even built their tourism around it –with the nation’s largest haunted hayride and other spooky attractions.  The problem is that Pine Deep really is the most haunted town in America, and that’s not going to be such a good thing for the folks that live there.  Halloween is coming early to Pine Deep and things are about to get truly spooky.   

Ghost Road Blues is a supernatural thriller in which ordinary people face extraordinary events, and how they deal with those events will forever change their lives.  Or end their lives.  This is a story of people confronting darkness –the darkness without, or within—in which we see some embrace that darkness, lured by its promise of power; and others take a stand against it, even at the risk of losing everything they love.   

The novel kicks off with a hunt for a brutal serial killer and then turns left into the creepy backroads that cut through the darkened cornfields of rural America.  As the hunt intensifies other forces come into play, turning Ghost Road Blues into a collision of natural –and unnatural—forces.   

Ghost Road Blues will appeal to the readers of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, Peter Straub’s Ghost Story, and the novels of Robert McCammon, Dan Simmons and Bentley Little.  It’s a mainstream thriller with a supernatural bite.  The book is 140,000 words and is ready for immediate mailing.  I would be happy to send a synopsis, sample chapters (or the complete ms.) along with a competitive analysis that clearly shows how strong and active this genre is, and has been.   

Your own remarkable track record with thrillers of every stripe is impressive, and you’ve done so well with best-sellers as well as first-time authors such as Joe Schmoe, Jane Doe and Iver Biggun that it’s clear you get this genre.  I look forward to hearing from via email.  

Sincerely 

Jonathan Maberry

Jonathan_maberry@yahoo.com  

So…the query has a number of significant points.  The first paragraph opens with a hook and then builds on the hook’s premise, exploring it in a way that promises that the book will be fun to read (no matter what the subject matter).  The second paragraph gives the title and establishes the genre, but also describes the ‘essence’ of the book.  The third paragraph suggests the format of the book, discussing the way in which the story unfolds.   

None of these paragraphs bogs down with too much plot.  You have to intrigue and entice with a book that will fit into a known genre/subgenre.  If that works then the agent or editor will ask to see chapters (for style) and a synopsis (for plot/story). 

Paragraph four reinforces the market position of the book by citing other authors whose books define and drive the genre/subgenre.  This paragraph also provides details such as word count, and then offers deliverables (chapters, complete manuscript, etc.).  Notice that it’s worded not to ask whether these can be sent but rather offers choices to allow the agent/editor to pick.  That’s a much better sales strategy.  The paragraph also wraps with a subtle reminder that we all know that we’re talking about a marketable and potentially moneymaking product (rather than an enduring work of art).  Art is crucial, sure, but this is a business sales letter.  Stay focused on that point and save the art for when you’re dealing with readers and interviewers. 

The final paragraph establishes why you’re pitching to a specific agent or editor.  Do your homework.  Don’t shoot in the dark and send it to just anyone who handles fiction.  Use resources like PublishersMarketplace and others (more on this in the agent blog).  

Bottom line: let this person know that you’ve picked them because they are positioned and experienced in your genre.   End on a firm and positive note, not a plea.  Don’t apologize for being a newbie or for ‘bothering’ them (as I’ve seen in queries); and don’t use overly formal language.  Write conversationally but with a business message threaded throughout.  Confidence is crucial (but don’t use crap like ‘this is the best book you’ll ever read’ or other over-selling stuff). And, if you have a sense of fun in your tone that’s appealing.  Desperation isn’t. 

Hope this helps.  If you don’t want to post a comment or question, feel free to hit me via email at jonathan_maberry@yahoo.com 

Happy writing! Jonathan Maberry

www.jonathanmaberry.com 

Editorial serviceswww.careerdoctorforwriters.com 

Writers Corner USAwww.writerscornerusa.com