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Recently I received a book to review called Our Witchdoctors are too Weak. I posted my review as soon as I finished reading the book, just prior to getting an email asking me to post it during the first week of April as part of a virtual book tour. To make up for posting prematurely, I’m contributing to the tour by listing the other reviews for this book on my blog. If you’ve reviewed this book and are not listed here, let me know and I’ll add your site to the list.

I enjoyed this book, and admire the authors for their dedication to the Wilo tribe. Living in the Amazon in order to learn and record an unwritten language isn’t something I’d be willing or able to do, but I can and do encourage others to read about the authors’ experience.

If you’d like to know more about Davey and Marie Jank’s book, take a look at the reviews by: 

Carol Benedict

Valerie Comer

Carol J. Garvin

Tana Adams               

Sharon A. Lavy

 Jenn

Sue Harrison

Susan Panzica

Our Witchdoctors Are Too Weak: The Rebirth of an Amazon Tribe

Have you read this book? If so, what did you think about it?

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If you’re planning to give a pitch to an agent or editor at a conference, you may want to take a one sheet, or pitch sheet, with you. Some resources use these terms interchangeably, but some say a one sheet covers all of your work while a pitch sheet is designed to help you present just one book or series. Regardless of the term, a one page summary comes in handy when you get a chance to present your work.

In addition to your full contact information, this page should include a professional-quality photo of yourself, and an author bio. Also write a short blurb about the book or series you’re pitching. Make it enticing, like the short summaries you see on the back cover of books in a store.

These sheets should showcase you and your work. Although you should use white paper and black text, it’s acceptable to use photos and some simple graphic design elements, including colored ink, but don’t let those features overpower the story. A template for a flyer or newsletter may help you get the look you want.

If you’re more comfortable with a simple document, go with that rather than trying to create something fancy. Their purpose is to give you one more tool to use in your effort to entice an agent or editor to ask to see more of your work, and an amateurish one sheet will probably not do that.

Author Kaye Dacus goes into more detail than I have, and also give examples:

http://kayedacus.com/2007/08/28/beyond-the-first-draft%E2%80%94the-pitch-sheet-and-one-sheet/

Another helpful reference is by Tracy Ruckman:

http://www.tracyruckman.com/downloads/One%20Sheets.pdf

Amy Wallace has an example that includes different books:

http://www.amywallace.com/pdfs/One_Sheet_Sample.pdf

Although I’ve seen one sheets recommended on several agents’ blogs, they seem to be optional. 

EDIT AUGUST 9, 2011: Agent Rachelle Gardner discusses one sheets on her blog today, and has links to several excellent examples her clients submitted. 

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Have you ever prepared a one sheet/pitch sheet? What’s the first thing you’d say to an agent if you were going to pitch something to them? What would you talk about with a conference faculty member who wasn’t an agent or editor if you were given the opportunity of a one-on-one meeting?

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In my previous post I enthusiastically promised an absolutely awesome video experience, which apparently was an effective hook as several people mentioned they’d be looking forward to watching it. It’s finally ready for viewing:

 

 

While turkeys obviously enjoy their rituals, there usually isn’t much going on that would interest a casual observer. Just like a novel that has a plot with poor pacing, little conflict, or a weak story line, watching the toms court their hens can be pretty boring.

In fact, some people would not consider my turkey video worth posting, much less “awesome.” You may have found it disappointing, too, after the buildup in my earlier post. And, many of you probably expected the video to relate to writing since that’s the focus of this blog. Surprise! However, there are at least 39 other turkey courtship videos on YouTube today, so I must not be the only person in the world who loves turkeys. Just goes to show that there’s probably an audience for whatever writing genre that you love, too.

When we talk about our projects to others, whether it’s in the form of a query, jacket blurb, or oral pitch, we’re trying to entice them to take a look at more of our work. When the finished product fails to live up to the hype, though, we may be rewarded with a rejection or a disappointed customer. (On the other hand, if we don’t present our work in an enthusiastic, positive way, no one else is likely to get excited about it either.)

Once someone decides to take a look at our work, we need to hook their interest and then hold on to it. We can start with a great opening, but to keep readers turning the pages we have to make sure the rest of what we’ve written lives up to their expectations. If we’ve promised suspense, there better be something suspenseful happening and it should be building up to a major climax. If people are expecting a romance, there needs to be some serious emotional involvement between the main characters. In nonfiction, whatever we’ve promised to show the readers needs to be evident.

If we fail to deliver what we’ve promised, we’ll disappoint our readers and lose our credibility.

 

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A common question from writers is whether or not it’s necessary for them to develop a blog or join a social networking site such as Facebook. The majority of us seem to think it is. However, there are differing opinions as to when, why, and to what degree networking is important.

For those who are published, or soon-to-be published, a website, blog, and social networking may be essential marketing tools. The trend in publishing is for writers to take over much of the responsibility for promoting their own work, and online activities can make a big difference in the success of a book.

For unpublished writers not actively submitting stories or articles for possible publication, though, an online presence may not be helpful. Devoting time to blogging, participating in forums, and updating Facebook may distract us from writing and studying the craft, which we should be doing to make our work marketable. On the other hand, those activities can be fun, and help us find like-minded people who will encourage us and possibly become critique partners.

I have mixed feelings about the value of a blog at this stage in my writing career. The people who read my blog tend to be other writers, but writers also tend to be readers—so somewhere down the line, this may become a valuable asset. Since I enjoy blogging, it makes sense to keep at it. For those who haven’t started submitting work for publication and don’t enjoy blogging, I think it’s more beneficial to spend time working on writing stories and articles than blog posts.

I haven’t joined a social networking site, so can’t say from personal experience whether or not they are worth the investment of a writer’s time. My opinion on blogging may not mean anything to those of you reading this, either. So, I’ve compiled a list of sites where publishing professionals discuss this topic. If you’re trying to make up your mind on how much you need to be doing online at a certain stage of your career, you may find these sites helpful:

http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2010/03/author-platform-what-are-you-waiting-for/  Joel Friedlander on author platforms

http://cba-ramblings.blogspot.com/2009/03/lets-talk-about-platform.html  Rachelle Gardner talks about platforms

http://cba-ramblings.blogspot.com/2009/07/social-networking-vs-writing.html Rachelle Gardner on unpublished authors and networking

http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/2009/04/building-platform-for-fiction.html  Jessica Faust on fiction platforms

http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2010/03/more-on-platform.html  Janet Reid on nonfiction platforms

 http://www.contrib.andrew.cmu.edu/~gct/social_networking_sites.jpg

What online activities do you participate in? Which ones do you think are useful for promoting your work? How much time do you spend each day blogging and/or networking? What topics do you talk about most often on your blog or networking site? When do you think an aspiring author should start building an online presence?

 

 

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Today’s post will be short because I have an important business meeting tomorrow and I need to cut my hair and do my nails. I also want to look over last year’s contract so I’ll be able to recognize any changes the management might try to slip into the new one. Not that there’s anything I can actually do about it. The guy in charge makes his decisions based on what he thinks is best for his company, and who he personally likes or dislikes.

So why do I bother thinking about my looks and doing research? Because I know my competition and want to make the best impression I can; because I know my appearance reflects the type of person I am; because I can’t know if signing a contract is the best decision for me if I don’t have a basis for comparison. I represent my business, and its success or failure depends on how I handle the opportunities I’m given.

Those principles apply to writing, too.

1. We need to know our audience and our competition.

If there’s no market for what we’re writing, we have little hope of selling it. If the market is flooded with similar stories, we have little hope of interesting an agent or publisher in ours. If we’re writing strictly for our own enjoyment, we don’t need to worry about what other people think.

2. We need to be (or at least appear) professional and competent.

It’s human nature to favor the people who impress us with their looks, skills, talents, or whatever it is we’re using as a criteria for choosing one over another. Our queries and manuscripts represent us (which is probably why so many writers take a rejection personally), so we need to make them as attractive as possible before we send them out. That means they should be properly formatted, free of grammatical errors, concise, yet thorough.

3. We need to do our research.

Sending a query to agents or publishers who don’t represent the type of writing we do, or failing to follow the guidelines they give, is not showing we are professionals. It’s a waste of their time and ours. If they accept our work and we later find out we aren’t getting what we thought out of the deal, we’ll have to live with the consequences. Maybe we can break the contract, maybe we can re-negotiate the terms, maybe we’ll get out of it without damaging our career. We’ll be gaining experience but wasting time.

Are you writing strictly for pleasure, working towards a career in writing, or somewhere in the middle? Do you research the market before starting a project, or do the writing first and the research later?  Would my use of semi-colons in the second paragraph be considered a grammatical error, or a stylistic choice?

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When we get ready to send out a query, one of the things an agent or editor will want to know is what genre the manuscript fits into. According to the Encarta dictionary, genre means:

1. category of artistic works: one of the categories, based on form, style, or subject matter, into which artistic works of all kinds can be divided. For example, the detective novel is a genre of fiction.

Knowing the genre helps determine your target market, and gives agents and editors an idea of what comparable books have been written. If the market is saturated with that genre, or it is in a genre that has been selling especially well, that might affect the agent’s or editor’s interest in your manuscript.

Agents and editors each have their own area of interest, so you don’t want to waste your time, or theirs, sending queries to places that don’t handle the type of work you’ve written. But sometimes a novel or nonfiction book will contain elements of more than one genre, making it hard to classify. One way to narrow it down is to visualize where you’d expect to find your book if you went looking for it in a bookstore. For example, where would your young-adult-historical-romantic-suspense novel (or whatever you’ve written) fit best on the bookshelf at Barnes and Noble?

Choosing the appropriate genre can be confusing, so I’m going to write a series of blog posts about some of the genres in fiction and in nonfiction. I’ll do one or two a week, so if there’s one you’d like me to discuss right away, leave a request in the comments. In the meantime, here are some sites that list some of the different genres in fiction:

http://www.agentquery.com/genre_descriptions.aspx  A list and brief explanation of some basic genres in fiction

http://www.cuebon.com/ewriters/genres.html A long list of genres, with lots of subgenres

 http://www.writersdigest.com/article/genredefinitions/  Writer’s Digest list of subgenres, with brief descriptions

 

What genre you do prefer reading? If you’re a writer, what genre does your work usually fit into?

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There’s lots of advice out there on how to have a successful blog, but most of it seems aimed at bloggers who sell a product. Here are a few things that I’ve done that might be useful for other writers, as well as people with different types of blogs:

Use some kind of statistics to analyze your traffic. WordPress has a basic statistics page built in, and you can see which posts people click on most often as well as the search terms that brought them to your blog. Knowing what people are interested can help you write related posts.

Have a theme of some sort for your blog. You don’t have to stick to it all the time, but if the majority of the posts relate to a certain topic you’ll be more likely to attract a regular audience of people interested in that subject.

Customize your blog header. Add a log line indicating what your blog’s theme is, and if possible include a picture that sets your blog apart from others using the same template. You don’t want it to be mixed up with anyone else’s blog. Make yours memorable.

Keep most of your posts short. In your longer posts, keep the paragraphs short as the empty space in between them makes the posts easier to read. Visitors seem more attracted to posts that are quickly and easily read.

Use lists. For your key points, use numbered lists or bullets for emphasis, especially if you’re discussing something technical. This makes the content easier to read and remember.

Respond to everyone who takes time to comment on your posts. It’s courteous and also seems to encourage people to return.

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get many comments. I’ve been getting over 100 visitors a day, and only a few of them leave comments. If I didn’t have a visitor counter on this blog, I’d think I was talking to myself most of the time.

Leave comments on other blogs. If you include your blog link when you fill out the comment form, other bloggers may click on it to see what type of blog you have. (However, if you’re signed in on WordPress and visit another WordPress blog, you aren’t asked for identifying information. The blog link will only be generated with your name if you’ve put the URL to your blog in the “website” line in your account profile. That’s something I learned today, after 8 months of not having my link listed.)

Use key words. Repeat important words several times in the body of your post, and also put words related to the content in the title. Search engines look for those words and are more likely to refer people to those posts.

Include links to earlier posts. If you add the link to an earlier post when you’re writing about a related topic, people often click on it. This lets you cover subjects in greater depth with several short posts rather than one huge one.

Edit Februay 17, 2010: I ran across a helpful post  by Suzannah at Write it Sideways, dealing with reasons a post might flop. Check it out.

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February 24, 2012:  Agent Amanda Luedeke has some great suggestions for bloggers in her series, 5 Rules of Blogging Well, 7 Ways to Grow Your Blog Readership, and Blogging as a Fiction Author.

Jane Friedman also has some good tips, 5 Keys to Writing for an Online Audience.

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What are some ways you make your blog stand out from others? Do you have any suggestions for people wanting to attract more readers to their blog?

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