Sunday, May 27, 2007

How to find an agent is a question asked by most writers these days. It seems next to impossible to break down the barricades to publishing a book without one. How to find an agent is almost as difficult as how to find a publisher.

What Is The Most Critical Mistake Writers Make When Approaching Literary Agents For Representation?

Over 60 successful literary agents responded as follows:

Poor writing or poorly prepared contact letter 44%
Inappropriate subject or genre for that agent 22%
Author’s hype, ego, arrogance 18%
Uneducated about publishing process 16%
Lack of knowledge about the book’s competition 8%
No platform for nonfiction 6%

Poor writing or poorly prepared contact letter

It comes as a surprise that agents report they get so many weak query letters. A number of books have been written on the subject of crafting a query such as Making the Perfect Pitch by agent Katherine Sands. Numerous writers’ conferences also cover this topic in depth. A query letter isn’t really that complicated to compose—particularly compared to writing a 100,000 word novel.

Inappropriate subject or genre for that agent
The second most popular response to the question reflects that the writers don’t do their homework when selecting agents to contact. Sending a wonderful query about your, say, cookbook, to an editor that specializes in placing mystery fiction is simply a waste of everyone’s time. Reference books such as Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents point out very clearly what individual agents are looking for. Not that some of their preferences don’t seem odd, even a bit nonsensical. In one reference guide agent warned, “Don’t send me any right-wing Tom Clancy stuff.’’ Did this agent really mean to say he’d turn down the chance to earn 15% of the mega-royalties author Clancy has earned in his career?

Author hype, ego, arrogance
Agents report that creative people oftentimes have big egos. Hard to believe, isn’t it? Part of the problem stems from author’s awareness of how many other writers they are competing with for the agent’s attention. The temptation to use hyperbole to differentiate oneself can be overwhelming. Of course, then some of the agents go on to contradict their colleagues by warning against over-selling and arrogance. “Trying to act more like a sales person, and not like a writer,” one agent said. “Hyping the agent. A straightforward recitation is much more effective.” But another one said the worst mistake was, “Not writing an engaging query.” “Writing dreary query letters describing the plot of the book.” Now we’re starting to get confused. Do the agents want an exciting query, or that “straightforward recitation”?

Uneducated about publishing process
The author who is truly talented and dedicated to the craft of writing has a clear advantage right from the start; the overwhelming response from agents was that the quality of many submissions they receive is poor. The author who can articulate the market for his or her book is also way ahead. The author needs to think of himself as a small businessperson entering a new industry, not as a “literary artist.” They must be able to address the question, Who is going to buy your book and why? Authors who can show they will be helpful in selling the book once it is published are particularly sought after in today’s marketplace. Writers should not assume that an agent, or an editor at a publishing house, will automatically recognize who the target audience is for a book, or how large that audience might be.

Lack of knowledge about the book’s competition
The responses below point up something that many authors don’t even stop to consider what the competition for their book might be. They have no idea whether their book is really new and different (nonfiction) or whether it fits into a fiction category that is “hot.” Food product manufactures talk of the keen competition for shelf space at the grocery story. The same holds true in the bookstore shelves. Can you imagine where in the store your book might appear?

No platform for nonfiction
“Platform” is something everyone in the publishing industry is talking about these days—it should be nominated for the coveted “Industry Buzzword of the Year” award. Having a “platform” is one of the best means of getting your non-fiction book to the top of the agent’s to-do list. Platform simply means the built-in audience you have for your book, and the media exposure you can generate for your book, apart from the marketing done by the publishing house. If you can say, “I am a frequent guest on the _______” (nationally syndicated radio program). Or, “I publish an Internet newsletter that has 20,000 subscribers.” You are telling a publisher that a potential audience already exists for your book—lots of readers know who you are—and therefore you represent less of a risk to the publishing house, because awareness often translates into sales.

After you've accomplished the task of how to find an agent don't make the above mistakes.

Want to find out how you can avoid scams and still get your book published? You can receive a free report Perils and Pitfalls of Publishing for Writers just visit Free Report

About The Authors
Brian Hill and Dee Power have written several nonfiction books including The Publishing Primer: A Blueprint for an Author's Success and The Making of a Bestseller: Success Stories From Authors and the Editors, Agents, and Booksellers Behind Them.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Marketing Challenge the First Week

Back in February I said I was going to challenge myself for 30 days and use the Internet to market two of our books. Well dismal failure, not that Internet Marketing doesn't work, it does, I just didn't do it.

You know how it is. Lots of good intentions but no follow through.


I'm doing it again. But a little differently this time. I've signed up for a challenge. It's called bum marketing, because it's so uncomplicated that even a bum could do it. No, that wasn't my name for it.

It works rather simply. You select a product, in this case I'm selecting our new book The Publishing Primer: A Blueprint for an Author's Success. You could select your own product or promote someone else's product. If you promote someone else's product make sure it's offered through an affiliate program like clickbank, commission junction, or even

Set up a website, a blog on blogger or a squidoo lense about your product or the product you've selected to promote. The website doesn't have to be new or even relate to the product. I used and set up some new pages.

Now here's the easy part, at least for us writers. Write 250 to 500 word articles about your product. Develop a bio that intrigues readers of the article to click on your website, blog or squidoo page for more information, a free report, or additional articles.

The tricky part is the title of the article and the first paragraph. You want to include key word phrases that will be indexed by the search engines. You also want your title to grab the reader. Sometimes that's a contradiction.

For practice I wrote an article "Weddings on a shoestring budget - flowers for your wedding"
the key word phrase is *weddings on a shoestring budget*. The article showed up on google on the first page for *weddings on a shoestring budget* the day after I submitted it to an article directory.

I'll keep you posted on my progress.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

How to find a literary agent. There's lots of competition.

Most aspiring authors begin their careers with little or no understanding of how to find a literary agent to represent their work. They quickly learn that most major publishing houses only accept submissions through literary agents. So, they begin sending query letters to agents and, usually, meet with a cool reception, or even hit a high, solid, impenetrable brick wall. We surveyed over 60 literary agents, from both large well-known agencies as well as smaller “boutique” agencies, to get a perspective on how authors can improve their chances of attracting an agent, and to find out the outlook for new authors trying to crack into the publishing industry.

We asked the agents:

§ In attempting to find an agent, how much competition does a new author really face?

§ What is the most common reason you decline to represent a writer?

In order to obtain the most candid comments possible, we told the agents their responses to our questions would not be attributed to them (and as a result they were even more candid than we expected).

How Much Competition Does A New Author Really Face?

Unfortunately, the response was: a tremendous amount. The agents reported that they receive, on average, 90 unsolicited submissions per week. Out of these more than 4,500 submissions that come in each year, the agents, on average, took on 11 new clients. This means that the typical agent agreed to represent a little more than 2 out of 1000 of the authors that contacted them with unsolicited submissions. Regarding the 998 authors who did not receive a contract, we asked the agents:

What Is The Most Common Reason You Decline To Represent A Writer?

Poor writing 60%

Book was outside the agent’s genre 17%

Agent’s client base was full 10%

Writer’s work and agent don’t click 8%

Other 5%

The good news is that the top two reasons given are factors that are under the writer’s control. Most authors develop and improve their craft over a number of years, and even bestselling authors say when they were first starting out their initial literary efforts left something to be desired. A dedicated writer certainly doesn’t have to remain in that “poor writing” category.

But what exactly is “poor writing”? In the decline letters they send to authors, agents often say they turned the author down because they aren’t enthusiastic enough about the material. A favorite phrase used by agents in turndown letters is, “I simply didn’t fall in love with the writing.” This is probably the source of more author frustration than any other aspect of trying to get published. Success or failure hinges on extremely subjective judgments, and once the judgment is rendered, it is final. Talking an agent out of an opinion is pretty much impossible. Think about your own reading experience. How often do you pick up a novel, read 10 pages, decide you aren’t interested in it, and put it down? Does that mean the writing was “poor”? Not at all. It simply means you didn’t connect with the story, for reasons you may not even be able to articulate. Every individual’s literary taste is different.

One frequently received type of rejection isn’t really ‘rejection’ at all: The agent has all the clients they can handle at the present time, so they really have no choice but to send a decline letter to unsolicited submissions. The agent in this case was doing the author a favor; far worse it would have been to accept a new client that would not get the necessary attention from the agent. Too often, though, authors interpret receiving a decline letter such as this as, “my book must not be any good.” Actually, the agent may not even had time to read your submission package.

Notice that the fact a writer was unpublished was not a significant reason for being rejected as a client.

How to find a literary agent is a question every new writers asks. Hope this helped.

There's lots more information in our new book The Publishing Primer: A Blueprint for an Author's Success


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Boosting Book Sales Through Discussion Groups

Discussion Groups can be a gold mine for generating interest in your book. Search discussion group sites like Yahoo Groups and Google Groups for groups that are relevant to the topic of your book. You can also search for discussion groups by subject matter. Type in the search engines +discussion +groups +mothers +young +children, for example. Join the groups that have at least 500 members and are active. It's better if the group is un-moderated. You're not going to spam, absolutely not. But groups that are un-moderated usually have higher activity levels. The posts don't have to go through the time lag that's required for the moderator to approve it. If the group is moderated you can see if the activity level is high by looking at the number of posts in a month.

Some groups are un-moderated, but a new member's first few posts have to be approved. That cuts out the spam, which is a good thing.

You want at least 500 members so the base is large enough to have enough members that might be interested in the topic of your book.

In your profile make sure your signature includes your website, blog, and title of your book and brief description with a link. Some discussion lists have limits on what can be included in your signature and how long it can be.

Now take a few hours and read the previous posts to get the flavor of the group. That first day just introduce yourself. Members will most likely welcome you aboard. You can reply with a thank you. Every time you post you are gaining visibility, but don't overdo it. It's annoying to see the same person just post "I agree." or "me too," just for the sake of posting.

Over the next few days respond to posts that are relevant to your book. Provide helpful information, resources or relevant links. You don't have to mention your book because it's in your signature. What you're doing is establishing yourself as a valid and valuable member of the group.

You could also write a couple of articles and post them to an article directory like, Ezine Articles. When the subject comes up in a post in your discussion group, you can include the link to the article as a resource. Most of the article directory sites allow you to include a bio box. In the bio box include a statement such as "If you want to learn more about – subject of your book -- please visit"

Posting articles also establishes your credibility with the discussion group as an expert.

When a group post addresses a problem that your book solves, save that post in a folder. Most groups have options that allow you to either bookmark a post, or separate it and file it in a folder. After you've been a member of the group for a week or so, start replying to the posts you've saved with a very gentle response that you can help the person. Ask them if you could send them additional information about your book? In this way you're asking permission for them to become a sales lead for you.

Even better is to compile a brief report, say 2000-3000 words that's relevant to your book. At the end of the report include a description of your book and links. Offer your free report. When they request the report you can follow up with an email about your product.

This procedure works with fiction as well as nonfiction, although it's a little bit more of a challenge. Just think of your characters, the location of your story, and the theme. Say your book is about a woman who solves mysteries while running a flower shop. You could address gardening groups and flower arranging groups for example. I'm sure you can come up with lots of ideas.

If you spend 30 minutes a day participating in discussion groups you can substantially increase the visibility of your book, and hopefully sales.

Find out more about book publishing. Join their newsletter Words for Writers and Readers Just send an email to theauthors@(nospam) with the subject as subscribe. Remove the (nospam) from the email address.

About The Authors
Brian Hill and Dee Power have written several nonfiction books including The Publishing Primer: A Blueprint for an Author's Success, and The Making of a Bestseller: Success Stories from Authors and the Editors, Agents and Booksellers Behind Them,. They are also the authors of a novel, Over Time - Love, Money and Football: All the Important things in life.

Reach them through

Monday, May 07, 2007

How to find a literary agency without getting scammed is a challenge for any new writer. Anyone can call themselves a literary agent or a publisher. The listings in the literary agency directories are not necessarily vetted, or checked by the publisher. Literary agents vary widely in ethics, dedication and competence.

Here's what to watch out for with literary agents:

• Charging the author a fee up front, to be accepted as a client. This fee can be called a reading fee, or a monthly “office expenses” charge. The best agents, and most successful ones, only charge a percentage fee of royalties the author earns, typically 15%. Suppose a realtor charged you a fee to come over and tour your house before getting the listing? How quickly would you show that realtor the door. . .

• Charging back unusually large “postage and copying fees” to send out an authors’ work. One crooked agency accepts almost every client that contacts them, but in the fine print of the contract they charge “postage and handling” of up to $10 per submission they send out on your behalf. It doesn’t cost $10 to send a letter and a sample chapter of a book to a publisher. This company makes a fortune from these fees whether or not they successfully market any of their clients work.

• Directing authors toward specific editing services or giving authors’ names to these services. Sometimes they even own the editing service. Some agents make a significant portion of their income from referral fees from these services.

• Demanding that a critique be completed before the agency decides to offer representation. The fee for the critique may be minimal, perhaps even less than $100. But if the average agency is contacted by 90 writers a week that fee can add up.

• Terms in agency contracts with writers vary widely. The contract must be read carefully.

• The agent contacts publishers pretty much at random. The agent’s value to you is in the relationships they have with publishers, so that if the publisher hears from them, they know the book is worth taking a look at. Ask to see copies of rejection letters that come back from publishers. If it looks like just a form letter response, rather than a letter you would send to an acquaintance, you can bet the agent may be just picking names out of a directory of publishers.

• The agent refuses to provide the names of clients or titles sold. Sales are an agent’s life blood and reputation. If an agent won’t name names it could be because there aren’t any sales.

• Puts forth a weak effort or gives up on the client’s project after a few months. You have a right to ask how active the agent is going to be. How many publishers are they going to contact, how will they follow up? You have a right to periodic reports as to whom they have contacted and the results. You must determine how much time and attention they are really going to give you.

A critical reason it is imperative to have a reputable agent is that the publishing house typically pays the agent, who deducts their “cut” and sends the remainder to the author. It’s a frightening thought that a less than honest person gets their hands on the money you’ve earned from sweat, blood, and even tears.

Now you know how to find a literary agent without getting scammed. And remember:

A bad agent is worse than no agent.

Want to find out how you can avoid scams and still get your book published? You can receive a free report Perils and Pitfalls of Publishing for Writers just visit Free Report

About The Authors Brian Hill and Dee Power have written several nonfiction books including The Publishing Primer: A Blueprint for an Author's Success and The Making of a Bestseller: Success Stories From Authors and the Editors, Agents, and Booksellers Behind Them.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

If you think weddings on a shoestring budget means you have to skimp on flowers, think again. Every little girl dreams of a fairy tale wedding with arches of roses, armloads of orchids and baskets of gardenias. Then we grow up and find out just how much one orchid costs much less an armload. You can have fairy tale flowers at your wedding without nightmare prices, but you need to go to the nursery not the florist.

Blooming plants in pots are perfect for weddings. Here are some ideas that could take your breath away and the sting out of your wallet.

Geraniums come in pinks, purples, reds and whites. You have your choice of the one quart size which is about a 4 inches high container or one gallon which is about 8 inches high.

Miniature roses, which refers to the size of the blossom rather than the size of the plant, come in a variety of colors. Most of the time they’re in 4 inch pots.

Standards are flowers which have been trained to have a trunk-like sturdy stem and then a burst of flowers at the top. The trunks can range from a foot high to four or five feet high. Roses, hibiscus, bougainvillea are just a few of the flowers you can find in the standard form.

Azaleas are available in late winter, spring and early summer and come in white and pinks. The bushes have glossy dark green leaves and are loaded with blossoms. Azaleas also come as a standard, but these can be a bit pricy.

Chrysanthemums are available at nurseries only in the fall, but you can find them in grocery stores nearly year round.

Okay so now you're really into the weddings on a shoestring budget mode but now that you’ve got all these pots what do you do with them?

The first thing is to cover the ugly containers or to repot. You can buy cheap baskets. You can repot in decorative pots. You can buy cheap terracotta pots and spray paint them in gold or white and then stick the nursery pots inside. You can buy gift bags (the kind without the handles) and place the nursery pots inside and then tie a ribbon around the stems of the plant.

For smaller pots you can buy cloth napkins, place the pot in the middle of the napkin, and bring up the four corners, then tie. You can also do this with larger pots with fabric.

Take your decorated pots and line the aisle or the entry way to where you wedding ceremony is being held with gallon containers. Place pots on stairs. Put several pots on each table at the reception, at your cake table, or on food tables.

You can vary the height of your arrangement by placing one of the pots on an over turned empty pot and then surrounding it with contrasting flowers.

Rather than placing a flower arrangement on the alter, use a standard on either side of the alter table.

You can group several pots in a basket and then cover the pot brims with moss, available at a crafts store.

If you don’t want to take the pots home, let guests take them, or donate them to a retirement home or your church.

Weddings on a shoestring budget don't have to be cheap

Want to know more about weddings on a shoestring budget? Visit Your Beautiful Wedding and You didn't break the bank.

About The Authors
Brian Hill and Dee Power have written several nonfiction books including The Publishing Primer: A Blueprint for an Author's Success and The Making of a Bestseller: Success Stories From Authors and the Editors, Agents, and Booksellers Behind Them.