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The Author's Guild is promoting an event to support independent bookstores on Saturday, November 29. If you are an author, do consider participating. Independent bookstores have been hard hit, first by the national chains, and then by online retailers. Every time bookstore closes, there is one less outlet for our work, one lost venue for a book signing, and a hole in the community of book lovers.
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From the Author's Guild

We all know that books make the best gifts. So do our friends at the American Booksellers Association, who have brought back a winning initiative this holiday season to help spread the word in support of independent bookstores.

That’s right, Indies First returns to your local independent on November 29, otherwise known as Small Business Saturday (think of it as the grassroots Black Friday). The brainchild of Guild Council member and self-confessed “book nerd” Sherman Alexie, Indies First recruits authors to spend Thanksgiving Saturday hand-selling books at their favorite independent bookshops. Last year—its first—over 1,100 authors participated in the program.

This year Indies First will be helmed by Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer. Take a look at their letter about the project here. Per Gaiman and Palmer, directions are as follows:

Choose your independent bookshop, talk to the owner or manager, and agree on what you are going to do that day. If you have a website, put that store’s buy button in a prominent place on your website, above the Amazon button and the IndieBound button. If you prefer, you can sign up on the author registry so that a store can contact you.

We wish everyone involved the absolute best. There’s still time to sign up on the author registry. While you’re at it, take a look at IndieBound’s map to see participating stores. Hundreds of authors have signed up so far, including David Baldacci, Roz Chast, and Jeanne Birdsall.

Even if you can’t participate, remember that books make great gifts. Support your local independent this holiday season.

The Authors Guild | 31 E 32nd St | Fl 7 | New York, NY 10016 | United States 

 
 
New agents are a boon to authors. They are hard-working and enthusiastic about their clients. (Nothing convinces an editor to take on a project more than an enthusiastic endorsement.) Jane Rostrosen Agency is located in NY. Rebecca Friedman Agency is located in LA.
About Rebecca: Unable to narrow her focus to just one subject, Rebecca Scherer earned her BA from the Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College in Political Science, English Lit, and German language. After several years at the agency, Rebecca now has daily opportunities to put her wide range of interests to use as she actively builds her client list. Find her on Twitter: @RebeccaLScherer.

What she is seeking: women’s fiction, mystery, suspense/thriller, romance, upmarket fiction at the cross between commercial and literary

How to submit: Contact Rebecca via e-mail: rscherer [at] janerotrosen.com. Put “Query: [Title]” in the subject line. Send a query letter, brief synopsis (1-2) pages, and the first three chapters. Please paste the letter and synopsis in the body of the email, though the chapters can either be pasted or attached.
About Kimberly: Kimberly fell in love with reading when she picked up her first Babysitter’s Club book at the age of seven and hasn’t been able to get her nose out of a book since. Reading has always been her passion, even while pursuing her business degree at California State University, Northridge and law degree at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles. By joining the Rebecca Friedman Literary Agency in 2014, she has been able to merge her legal background with her love of books. Although she loves all things romance, she is also searching for books that are different and will surprise her, with empathetic characters and compelling stories. Follow her on Twitter at @kimberlybrower

What she is seeking: Kimberly is interested in both commercial and literary fiction, with an emphasis in women’s fiction, contemporary romance, mysteries/thrillers, new adult and young adult, as well as certain areas of non-fiction, including business, diet and fitness. Kimberly is interested in representing English-language writers from all countries

How to submit: Email a query to Kimberly at kimberly [at] rfliterary.com. Submit a brief query letter and your first chapter (pasted into the email, not to exceed fifteen double-spaced pages) and for security purposes, do not include any attachments unless specifically requested.
 
 
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Writing contests can be a powerful boost to your career. Agents and editors take note of who wins writing awards, and it's a tremendous lift to be able to put "award-winning author" on your resume.

That being said, entry costs can mount up. For that reason, it's good to start with contests that don't charge an entry fee. Below is a pot-pourri of writing contests, covering all genres and topics. If you don't find one that suits you this month, you may find one the next.

Be sure to check this Free Contests page for a month-by-month list of contests.

Related postHow to Win Writing Contests and Big Publishing Contracts
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The Schneider Family Book Award is sponsored by the American Library Association. The award honors an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences. Prize: Three annual awards each consisting of $5000 and a framed plaque, will be given annually in each of the following categories: birth through grade school (age 0-10), middle school (age 11-13) and teens (age 13-18). (Age groupings are approximations). Genre: May be fiction, biography, or other form of nonfiction. Deadline: December 1, 2014. Read details here.

The David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Historical Fiction is offered annually to the best book in American historical fiction that is both excellent fiction and excellent history. Prize: $1.000. Deadline: December 1, 2014. Read guidelines here.

The Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award introduces emerging writers to the New York City literary community. The prestigious award aims to provide promising writers a network for professional advancement. Since Poets & Writers began the Writers Exchange in 1984, 85 writers from 33 states and the District of Columbia have been selected to participate. Restrictions: Open to Nevada residents. Genre: Poetry and Fiction. Prize: A $500 honorarium; A trip to New York City in October 2015 to meet with editors, agents, publishers, and other writers. All related travel/lodgings expenses and a per diem stipend are covered by Poets & Writers. Winners will also give a public reading of their work; and One-month residency at the Jentel Artist Residency Program in Wyoming. Deadline: December 1, 2014. For guidelines click HERE.

The W.Y. Boyd Literary Award for Excellence in Military Fiction honors the best fiction set in a period when the United States was at war. It recognizes the service of American veterans and military personnel and encourages the writing and publishing of outstanding war-related fiction. Genre: Military fiction. Prize: $5000. Deadline: December 1, 2014. For details click HERE.

White River Environmental Law Writing Competition is sponsored by the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law and Vermont Law School. Restrictions: Open to all students currently pursuing a degree (J.D. or LL.M) at an accredited law school in the United States. Submissions written as a class component, as a journal requirement, or otherwise for academic credit are acceptable. Genre: Original essays addressing any relevant topic in the fields of environmental law, natural resource law, energy law, environmental justice, land use law, animal law, and agricultural law. Prize: $1000 cash prize and an offer of publication with the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law. Deadline: December 10, 2014. Read more details HERE.

Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America Best First Novel CompetitionRestrictions: The Competition is open to any writer, regardless of nationality, aged 18 or older, who has never been the author of any published novel (except that authors of self-published works only may enter, as long as the manuscript submitted is not the self-published work) and is not under contract with a publisher for publication of a novel. Genre: Murder or another serious crime or crimes is at the heart of the story. Prize: $10,000. Deadline: December 15, 2014. Entry form and details here.

Spark Award: Held by SCBWI , open to members of SCBWI who are self-published. Genres: Fiction and nonfiction for children and young adults. Prize: Envy. The SCBWI is our most prestigious national organization (US) for children's book and YA writers. Deadline: December 15, Read submission guidelines HERE.

Hidden Prize for Prose is sponsored by Hidden Clearing Books. Restrictions: Open to US and Canadian residents 18 years or older. Genre: Previously unpublished English-language manuscript between 15,000 – 30,000 words, literary as well as speculative (contemporary fantasy, light sci-fi and horror) genres. Hidden Prize for Prose also accepts memoirs and creative non-fiction. Prize: $250.00 + 25 contributor copies. Deadline: December 31, 2014. Entry form and details here.

The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards recognizes outstanding works that contribute to our understanding of racism and our appreciation of the rich diversity of human cultures. Awards are given for both fiction and nonfiction. Prize: $10,000. Deadline: December 31. The winners are announced in the spring. Read full submission guidelines HERE.

GENEii Award. The Southern California Genealogical Society sponsors its annual family-history writing contest to support and encourage the writing of family history, local history, and memoirs, both by genealogists and by the public at large. Genre: Nonfiction. Prize: $200. Deadline: December 31. Read full submission guidelines HERE.

Walter Muir Whitehill Prize in Early American History will be awarded for a distinguished essay on early American history (up to 1825), not previously published, with preference being given to New England subjects. Prize: $2,500. Deadline: December 31. Read full submission guidelines HERE.

Nightlight Readings Short Story Writers Contest is geared to at-risk boys in the 10-12 year age group who often stop reading for pleasure. Nightlight Reading’s goal is to fund and promote literature that appeals to boys and keeps them engaged and reading. Genre: Short stories. Prize: $1,000. Deadline: December 31. Read full guidelines HERE.

 
 
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This morning, I received an email from Joni Labaqui of the Writers of the Future Contest. 

While I normally pay no attention to writing advice (I have a knee-jerk reaction to break all the rules), this letter turned out to be pretty good. 

I scrolled down through the sections, I was distinctly aware that not only judges look for these qualities in stories, but editors and agents do as well.

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From: Joni Labaqui

We recently asked our WotF entrants what they would like to hear from us. Many requested some information that would help them understand why their last story submission didn’t win.

Our Contest Coordinating Judge and First Reader, Dave Wolverton (aka David Farland) just recently wrote the following article. It’s filled with information that I feel will help you with your next contest entry.

While I fear this is really too long for an email, I know that more of you are reading this than our blog (but we will be posting it there too). So here goes...

How to Win Writing Contests and Big Publishing Contracts

By David Farland

When I was in college, I wrote a story and—on the advice of my professor—entered it into a contest. It won third place, and as I considered my fifty dollar prize, I realized that I had made over twice the hourly minimum wage writing that story.

So I wondered, “If I worked harder, could I win more money?”

I was going to school full time and didn’t have a job, so I set a goal to win first place in a writing competition.  In order to boost my chances of winning, I decided to enter several contests.  I worked for six months and entered them all within a couple of weeks of one another.

To my surprise, I won all six of the writing contests, including Gold Award for the International Writers of The Future Contest.

When I went to receive my award atop the World Trade Center, several editors approached me and asked to see my first novel.  The outline interested the editors enough to start a small bidding war, and within a couple of days, I got a three novel contract.  I went on to get rave reviews for that first novel and won a Philip K. Dick Memorial Special Award for it.  It stayed on Locus’s Science Fiction Bestseller list for five months, and that helped set the tone for my career.

So, how did I win those contests?

Well, I started by making a list of lists of ways that that a judge might look at my work.  For example, some judges might look for an ending that brought them to tears, while another might be more interested in an intellectual feast, and a third might want to be transported to an intriguing location.

Recently, several people have asked me to share my list.  Over the years, it has grown.  I’m a contest judge now, not an entrant—though I did recently win six awards for my latest novel, including the International Book Award and the Hollywood Book Festival’s “Book of the Year.”

I no longer have that original document, but here is a list of things that I might consider in creating a story that I want to use as an entry to a contest—or for a novel that I want to submit to a publisher.

First, a word of warning: when I was very young, perhaps four, I remember seeing a little robot in a store, with flashing lights and wheels that made it move.  To me it seemed magical, nearly alive.  My parents bought it for me at Christmas, and a few weeks later it malfunctioned, so I took a hammer to it and pulled out the pieces to see what made it work—a battery, a tiny motor, some small colored lights, cheap paint and stickers.

Don’t want to ruin your illusions about stories, and as you read this list, it might feel a bit like those bits and pieces.  Maybe that’s because it’s only part of the equation.  Your story is more than the sum of parts.  So as I list these parts, be aware that a great story is more than any of these.  It should feel magical and alive.  It’s your job to add the magic:

Setting 

My goal with my settings is to transport the reader into my world—not just through the senses, but also emotionally and intellectually.  I want to make them feel powerful emotions and keep them thinking.  This can often be done by using settings that fascinate the reader, that call to them.  So here are a few questions to ask yourself as you consider your settings.

•    Do I have unique settings that the reader will find intriguing?  In short, is there something that makes my setting different from anything that the reader has seen before?

•    If my setting is in our world, is it “sexy” or mundane.  People are usually more intrigued by sexy settings.  Even if we place a story in a McDonald’s, we need to bring it to life, make it enjoyable.

•    Do I have any scenes that would be more interesting if the setting were moved elsewhere?  For example, let’s say that I want to show that a king is warlike.  Do I open with him speaking to his counselors at a feast, or would it be better to open on the battlefield?

 •    Do I suffer by having repetitive settings?  For example, if I set two scenes in the same living room, would one of them be more interesting if I moved it elsewhere?

 •    Do my descriptions of settings have enough detail to transport the reader?

•    Did I bring my setting to life using all of the senses—sight, sound, taste, feel, smell, hot/cold?

 •    Do my character’s feelings about the setting get across?  What do they think about it?  What memories does it arouse?

 •    Do I want to show a setting in the past, present, and suggest a future? For example, if I set a scene on a college campus, I might talk about a college’s historical growth, or the character’s view of its future importance, etc.

 •    Can a setting be strengthened by describing what it is not?

 •    Does my setting resonate with others within its genre, so that it creates a positive emotional feel?

 •    Do my settings have duality—a sometimes ambiguous nature?  For example, my character might love the church where she was married, have fond memories of it, and yet feel a sense of betrayal because her marriage eventually turned ugly.  So the setting becomes bittersweet.

 •    Do my settings create potential conflicts in and of themselves that aren’t explored in the text?  For example, if I have a prairie with tall grass and wildfires are a threat, should I have a wildfire in the tale?

 •    Do my characters and my societies grow out of my setting?  If I’ve got a historical setting, do my characters have occupations and attitudes consistent with the milieu?  Beyond that, with every society there is almost always a counter-movement.  Do I deal with those?

 •    Is my setting, my world, in danger?  Do I want it to be?

 •    Does my world have a life of its own?  For example, if I create a fantasy village, does it have a history, a character of its own?  Do I need to create a cast for the village—a mayor, a teacher, guards, etc.?

 •    Is my setting logically consistent?  For example, let’s say that I have a merchant town.  Where would a merchant town most likely be?  On a trade route or port—quite possibly at the junction of the two.  So I need to consider how fully I’ve developed the world.

 •    Is my setting fully realized?  Let’s say I have a forest.  What kinds of trees and plants would be in that forest?  What kind of animals?  What’s the history of that forest?  When did it last have rain or snow?  What’s unique about that forest?

 •    Do I describe the backgrounds (mountains, clouds, sun, moon), along with the middle ground (say a nearby building) and the elements nearest to my protagonist.

 •    Does my setting intrude into every scene, so that my reader is always grounded?  (If I were to set my story in a field, for example, and I have men preparing for battle, I might want to have a lord look up and notice that buzzards are flapping up out of the oaks in the distance, already gathering for the feast.  I might want to mention the sun warming my protagonist’s armor, the flies buzzing about his horse’s ears, and so on—all while he is holding an important conversation.

 •    Are there any settings that have symbolic import, whose meanings need to be brought to the forefront?

Characters

I want my characters to feel like real people, fully developed.  Many stories suffer because the characters are bland or cliché or are just underdeveloped.

We want to move beyond stereotypes, create characters that our readers will feel for.  At the same time, we don’t want to get stuck in the weeds.  We don’t want so much detail that the character feels overburdened and the writing gets sluggish.

So here are some of the checkpoints I might use for characters.

 •    Do I have all of the characters that I need to tell the story, or is someone missing?  For example, would the story be stronger if I had a guide, a sidekick, a love interest, a contagonist, hecklers, etc.? (Note: if you don’t recognize those character types, Google dramatica.com.)

•    Do I have any characters that can be deleted to good effect?

•    Do I have characters who can perhaps be combined with others?  For example, let’s say I have two cops on the beat.  Would it work just as well with only one cop?

•    Do my characters have real personalities, depth?

•    Do my characters come off as stock characters, or as real people?

•    Do I know my characters’ history, attitudes, and dress?

•    Does each character have his or her interesting way of seeing the world?

•    Does each character have his or her own voice, his own way of expressing himself?

•    Are my characters different enough from each other so that they’re easily distinguished?  Do their differences generate conflict?  Remember that even good friends can have different personalities.

•    Have I properly created my characters’ bodies—described such things as hands, feet, faces, hair, ears, and so on?

•    Do each of my characters have their own idiosyncrasies?

•    Do I need to “tag” any characters so that readers will remember them easily—for example, by giving a character a limp, or red hair, or having one who hums a great deal?

•    How do my characters relate to the societies from which they sprang?  In short, are they consistent with their own culture in some ways?  And in what ways do they oppose their culture?

•    What does each of my characters want?

•    What does each one fear?

•    What things might my character be trying to hide?

•    What is each character’s history?  (Where were they born?  Schooled, etc.?)

•    What is my characters’ stance on religion, politics, etc.?

•    How do my characters relate to one another?  How do they perceive one another?  Are their perceptions accurate, or jaded?

•    Does each character have a growth arc?  If they don’t, should they?

•    How honest are my characters—with themselves and with others?  Should my readers trust them?

•    What would my characters like to change about themselves?  Do they try to change?

•    Do my characters have their own family histories, their own social problems, their own medical histories, their own attitudes?  Do we need a flashback anywhere to establish such things?

Conflicts

One of the surest ways to engage our audience is through our conflicts.  When a conflict is unresolved, and when the audience is waiting breathlessly for its outcome, the reader’s interest will become keen.  They’ll look forward to the resolution unconsciously, and may even be thinking, “Oh, this is going to be good!”  That state of arousal is called “suspense,” and it’s perhaps the most potent element of a tale.

•    What is the major conflict in my story?

•    Do I have proper try/fail cycles for it?

•    Is the major conflict resolved in a way that satisfies the readers?

•    Is it universal enough so that the readers will find it interesting?  (Note that a conflict becomes far more interesting to a reader if it is something that he must deal with in his own life.)

•    Have I brought the conflicts to life through the incidents that I relate?  In other words, are their ways to deepen or broaden the main conflict?

•    Do I have secondary conflicts?  Most stories require more than one conflict.  For example, a protagonist will often have an internal conflict as well as an external conflict.  He may also have a love interest.  He might have conflicts with nature, with god, and with his companions.  So as an author, I must create a host of conflicts and decide how each one grows and is resolved.

•    How do my characters grow and change in order to overcome the conflicts?

•    Do my characters perhaps decide to adapt to a conflict, struggle to live with it rather than beat it?

•    How ingenious are my character attempts to solve their problems?  Ingenuity often adds interest.

•    How driven are my characters to resolve their conflicts?  Character who will go to extremes are needed.

•    Do I have any namby-pamby attempts that I should delete?  For example, if I have a protagonist whose main problem is that she doesn’t have the nerve to talk to her boss about a problem at work, should I strike that entire try/fail cycle?  (The answer is “almost always you should strike out the scenes and replace it with something better.)

•    Is my hero equal to or greater than his task at the start of a tale?  If so, then my hero needs to be weakened so that we have a better balance.

•    Does my protagonist ever get betrayed?

•    Does my protagonist have an identity conflict?  At the heart of every great story is a character who sees himself as being one thing—charming, heroic, wise—while others around him perceive him as being something else—socially wanting, cowardly, foolish.

•    Do I have enough conflicts to keep the story interesting?

•    Should some of the minor conflicts be deleted, or resolved?  (Remember that not all conflicts need to have try/fail cycles.)

Themes

Themes in the story might be called the underlying philosophical arguments in your tale.  A story doesn’t need to have a theme in order for it to be engaging.  Likeable protagonists undergoing engaging conflicts is all that you need in order to hold a reader.  But a tale that tackles a powerful theme will tend to linger with you much longer.  Indeed, such tales can even change the way that a reader thinks, persuade him in important arguments.  Shakespeare made every story an argument, and the “theme” was the central question to his tale.

Some people will suggest that dealing with themes is “didactic.”  Don’t be fooled.  Those same writers will put themes in their own works, and usually they’re taking stands that oppose yours.  For example, if you argue that morality is innate and central to what a human is, they’ll argue that it’s situational and we’re all just animals.  They don’t oppose the idea of stories having themes; they may just be opposed to your views.  So make sure that your arguments are rigorous and persuasive.

 •    Can I identify themes that I consciously handled?

 •    Are there themes that came out inadvertently?

 •    How universal are my themes?  How important are they to the average reader?

 •    Are there themes that need to be dealt with but aren’t?  For example, if I have a policeman who is going to take a life, does he need to consider how he will feel about that?

 •    Are there questions posed or problems manifested that bog the story down and need to be pulled?

 •    Do my characters ever consciously consider or talk about the main themes?  Should they?

 •    Do my characters need to grapple with important questions?  If not, perhaps they should.

 •    Do my characters change at all due to the influence of new ideas or beliefs?

•    If my theme is going to “grow,” become more important as the story progresses, do I need to add or modify scenes in order to accommodate that growth?  In other words, do I need to let the theme help shape the tale?

 •    As your character grapples with a theme, does he find himself led down false roads?  For example, let’s go back to our cop.  Let’s say that he shoots a boy at night, and feels guilty when he discovers that the boy wasn’t really armed.  What the cop thought was a gun turns out to have been a cell phone.  Would other characters try to influence him?  Perhaps a senior officer might take him out to get a drink—because alcohol has been his salvation for 20 years.  Another officer might suggest that the kid was trying to commit suicide by cop, and our protagonist that he ‘did the kid a favor,’ and so on.

 •    Does my character ever have to synthesize a thematic concept—come to grips with it intellectually and emotionally, so that it alters the character’s behavior?

Treatment

Your “treatment” is the way that you handle your story.  The number of items that come into play in your treatment is so long, I can’t get into all of them.  We would need get down to the real nitty-gritty of putting a sentence together.

You’ll want to create your own list of items to look for in your treatment.  If you notice for example that you’re creating a lot of long, compound sentences in a row, you might make it a goal to vary your sentence length.  If you find that you’re using weak verbs, you may want to go through your tale and search for instances of “was” and “were.”  If you find yourself using the word “then,” you might want to go through in your edits and make sure that incidents in your tale are related in sequential order, so that you don’t need the word “then.”  If you find yourself stacking modifiers in front of nouns and verbs, you might want to watch for that in your editing.  If you tend to over-describe things, you might want to watch your descriptions.

In short, whatever your own personal weaknesses are in writing, you’ll want to create a list so that you can think about them when you write.

But here are a few elements to consider in your treatment.

 •    Is your tone appropriate to the tale?  For example, let’s say that you want to invest a bit of humor into your story.  You start it with a joke.  Do you maintain the tone throughout the rest of the tale, perhaps layering the humor in, scene after scene?

 •    Do each of your characters speak with their own unique voices?  You’ll need to do a dialog check for each character before you’re done.

 •    Do you as a narrator establish a voice for the piece, one that you maintain throughout?

•    Is every description succinct and evocative?

 •    Do your descriptions echo the emotional tone of the point-of-view (POV) character?

 •    Do you get deep enough penetration into your protagonist’s POV so that the reader can track their thoughts and emotions?  If not, is there a good reason why you neglected to do so?

 •    Is there music in your language?  Do you want there to be?  Ernest Hemingway once said that “All great novels are really just poetry?”  With that in mind, listen to the sounds of your words.  Consider changing them as needed to fit the meter and emphasis that you need.

 •    Do you use enough hooks to keep your reader interested?

 •    Could you strengthen the piece by using foreshadowing?

 •    Do you use powerful metaphors or similes to add beauty and resonance to your work?  (If not, you’re in trouble.  Your competition will.)

 •    Is your pacing fast when it needs to be, and slow when it needs to be?

 •    Do you waste space with unnecessary words?

 •    Is your diction appropriate for your audience?  By that I mean, if you’re writing to a middle-grade reader, is the diction understandable to a ten-year-old.

Story Parts 

Sometimes when you’re looking at a story, you need to think about it in “chunks.”  Here are a few things that I think about when creating a tale.

Is the basic idea of my story original and powerful?  (In a contest, entering a story with a mundane concept probably won’t get you far.  For example, if you enter a story about a young man fighting space pirates, it probably won’t do well—unless you come up with some new technology or angle that sets it above all other space-pirate tales.)

Do you establish your characters swiftly?  We should probably know whom the story is about within a scene or two, and we should probably be introduced in a way that tells us something important about the characters.

We also need to establish the setting in every single scene.
  • Do you get to the inciting incident quickly and cleanly?  (The inciting incident is the place where the protagonist discovers what his main conflict is going to be.)  
  • Are there any storytelling tools that I could use to make this tale better.  (For a discussion of storytelling tools, see my book “Million Dollar Outlines,” which is available at www.davidfarland.com/shop.) 
  • Does my story escalate through the following scenes, with conflicts that broaden and deepen?  
  • Does my story resolve well?  Do I have a climax that really is exciting?  Is the outcome different from what the audience expects? 
  • Do I tackle all of the resolutions in a way that leaves the reader satisfied? 
Writing a story can be an exhausting exercise—intellectually challenging and emotionally draining. When you’re in the throes of it, it may seem daunting.  But you’re never really done until the outcome feels magical, and if you take care of all the little things that you should, the outcome will indeed seem wondrous.

Happy writing!

And good luck to you!

Joni Labaqui

7051 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, California 90028, United States (323) 466-3310

 
 
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It appears as if the stalemate between Hachette and Amazon has been resolved to the satisfaction of both parties. Amazon has given Hachette control over the prices of its ebooks, and has promised to not only restore Hachette titles to its inventory, but to feature them during the holiday season.

Is this the end of the Amazon vs Everybody Wars? Probably not. While discontinuing its extortionist tactics, at least for the time being, Amazon is still building a monopoly. History has shown time and time again that monopolies are good for nobody - except the people running them. 

With that in mind, Authors United is still going ahead with its plans to ask the Department of Justice to start an antitrust inquiry into Amazon.  

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Amazon-Hachette Deal: The Reaction

Publishers Weekly, November 13, 2014

News broke Thursday that the two companies had reached new sales terms--after a stalemate in their negotiations became public in May--with Hachette Book Group CEO Michael Pietsch telling authors and agents in a letter that the agreement gives the publisher "considerable benefits." Chief among those benefits, is that Hachette can sell its ebooks on Amazon using a model he called "Agency," giving the publisher "full responsibility for the consumer prices of our ebooks."

Pietsch, in a statement about the agreement, noted that Hachette's the new ebook terms won't take effect until 2015 but that, in interim, its titles will return to "normal availability" on Amazon. (During the stalled negotiations, a number of Hachette titles were unavailable for pre-order, or faced long delivery times.) Additionally, with the agreement, Hachette titles will now be featured in Amazon promotions for the holiday season, which Pietsch called "a very positive development." It could be until the middle of next week, however, for Amazon to be fully stocked on all HBG titles.

Read the rest of this article HERE.


 
 
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This article by Lynn Serafinn provides not only one of the best explanations for how Amazon manages to elude every ethical practice in the publishing world, it lays out neatly and concisely how publishing actually works.

This is a must-read article if you intend to publish. Whether you are doing it on your own or through a traditional publisher, it is important to understand the different functions of printers, publishers, retailers, and distributors. 

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Becoming an Empowered SELF-Published Author – Ethics & Practice

By Lynn Serafinn

Other the past few months, many authors have been writing to me all in a fluster over a controversy that apparently has arisen between Amazon and Lightning Source. I wanted to address this controversy because, frankly, I think a lot of people are having a knee-jerk reaction to what I think is basically an ethical issue, and I would like to show what I think might be a more ‘holistic’ response to it.

First of all, you need to know a bit about the parties involved and what is going on. Before we do that, let’s take a quick look at the flow that is involved in the production of any product, including your book:

1) It starts with the creator

2) It goes to the publisher

3) Then it goes to the manufacturer

4) Then to the distributor

5) Then to the retailer

6) Then to the consumer

STEPS 1 & 2: When you are truly self-publishing a book, YOU are also the publisher (so steps 1 and 2 are combined). But if you are going through a subsidiary press (such as iUniverse, Balboa Press or Create Space), you are not 100% ‘self published.’ On the one hand, you ARE self-published in that you don’t need a publishing deal and you retain all rights to your work. On the other hand, you are NOT self-published in that your subsidiary publisher is entitled to (usually) around 50% of your royalties as long as you print through them.

STEP 3: In printing, the ‘manufacturer’ is the printer. The publisher (even if that means you) then sends the book to the printer. Either we get a quantity of books printed in advance, or we use a “print on demand” (POD) service. Back when I first started out in the published world (and also when I ran a record company), you typically have to order 1000-2000 copies of your book (or record/CD) in order to get a decent price. Then, you always ran the risk of your publication sitting around collecting dust because you couldn’t move 2000 copies. Since the rise of POD in the publishing industry, that risk and investment has been removed for self-publishing authors. Lightning Source is one such POD service, certainly the most known in the world, and the one I use and recommend to my clients. Instead of having to buy 2000 copies of your book and the ship them to distributors, they print them ONLY when you have a customer for them (whether wholesale or retail), so you only pay for what you know you are going to sell.

STEP 4: The next step is to send the books to a distributor who then sells the books to retail shops. Of course, this saves the publisher a heck of a lot of time and energy, so the distributor is one of the most important pieces of the sales puzzle. Distributors typically buy your product between 50-60% off the retail price (55% is the most common), so they can sell it on to retails shops, and the retail shops can make a profit. That means if your book is selling for $10, they will pay around $4.50 for your book. From that price, you deduct your printing costs (I spoke about this in another article – Click HERE if you’d like to read it), and that is your profit.

Now what is so cool about Lightning Source is that they will also distribute your book for you via Ingram Book Company. Mind you, that does NOT mean that retail shops will necessarily BUY your book. It just means that they can supply them with your book if they order it.

STEP 5: The next step is the retailer. The retailer is the ‘shop’, whether online or on the ground, that sells your book to the customer. Typically, in my experience, retailers in the book and record industry buy your product for between 35-45% off the retail price. That means they will pay about $6.00 for a $10 book, which means the distributor makes about $1.50 per book sold, and the retailer makes about $4.00. However, as we all know, retailers like to be able to have a good profit margin so they can LOWER the price, to be able to entice customers to buy your product OR to get RID of a product that isn’t selling (let’s hope that doesn’t happen to OUR books!). Back when I was a retailer, I often had to sell “dead stock” at cost or even BELOW the price I paid for it. It’s the only way to keep cash flow going. So retailers take a risk every time they buy something. They want to know they can sell it.

STEP 6: The last step, of course, is the customer. The customer likes to get a good deal on a product. That’s why, if you give your distributor a good discount in the first place, the retailer will have the freedom to lower his price and get more people to buy your book.

SO WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?

The thing that confuses me is how Amazon fits into this picture. Now I have a close connection to Amazon in that much of my business depends upon it, as I work with authors. And as a customer, I have also found them to be both reliable and convenient. Authors love to see their books on Amazon because they can reach a wider audience much more quickly than they could by going only through traditional distribution routes to retail shops. All in all, Amazon is a great asset for us authors.

But here’s where things are a bit hazy. According to their entry on Wikipedia, they are it is often called the world’s largest online retailer. Most of us associate Amazon with books, but they have really expanded and now sell just about everything.

So Amazon is a ‘retailer’ (Step 5 in the model above) BUT for some strange reason, when it comes to purchasing power, they are not paying the same price for the books they sell as other retailers. In fact, they are paying the price that wholesalers/distributors pay for your book (Step 4). That means they are buying books at an average of 15% LESS than other retailers. This means they have a tremendous advantage in that they can seriously undercut your High Street book shop.

But wait… there’s more…

Read more here.


 
 
Here are two new agents looking for clients. New agents are great for first-time writers. They are enthusiastic, eager to make sales, and don't have a mile-high slush pile. While they may be new as agents, they often have connections in the publishing world and work in established agencies.
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Monika Woods of InkWell

About Monika: Monika Woods began her publishing career working for Ellen Levine at Trident Media Group after graduating from the Columbia Publishing Course, where she worked with authors such as Marilynne Robinson, Ayana Mathis, Russell Banks, and Paul Harding. She joined InkWell Management in the Spring of 2013 to work with Kimberly Witherspoon and start building her own client list. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two cats and can be found writing about the book she just finished at www.booksijustread.com or on Twitter at @booksijustread.

What she is seeking: Her interests include literary and commercial fiction, memoir, and compelling non-fiction in food, popular culture, science, and current affairs. Some of her dream projects include historical fiction about feminists, the Roma, and Maxim Lieber, darkly suspenseful stories (both true and made-up) with unreliable narrators, anything about Poland and its history, nonfiction that is creatively critical, and above all, novels written in a singular voice.

How to submit: Query Monika at monika [at] inkwellmanagement.com. Please send both a query letter along with a short writing sample (1-2 chapters) in the body of your email, and she’ll be in touch if she would like to read more! Monika is very interested in representing writers from all over the world.
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Linda Scalissi of 3 Seas Literary

About Linda: Linda Scalissi is excited to join 3 Seas Literary as their newest agent. Not only has reading been a lifetime passion, but she has a strong background in professional proofreading, editing and sales. She’s looking forward to receiving submissions and building strong, long-term relationships with her clients. She resides with her husband, two dogs and four rescue goldfish.

What she is seeking: Linda is interested in representing authors of women’s fiction, thrillers, young adult, mysteries and romance.

How to submit: E-queries only: queries [at] threeseaslit.com. No attachments; paste everything into the email. The subject line should begin as follows: “QUERY FOR LINDA: (The title of the manuscript or any short message you would like to relay to us should follow.)” Please email the first chapter and synopsis along with a query letter. Also, be sure to include the genre and the number of words in your manuscript, as well as pertinent writing experience in your query letter. Read submission guidelines HERE.

 
 
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BookBaby is an ebook publishing and distribution company based in Oregon. Much like Smashwords, it distributes ebooks though all the major channels: Amazon, Kobo. Barnes & Noble, Baker & Taylor (and 50 others), as well as subscription services like Oyster and Scribd. BookBaby's plans range from "free" (you pay nothing up front, but they keep 15% of your sales), to $249 (they convert your files, and you keep 100% of your sales).

This month, BookBaby is offering a free writer's guide, The End - Now What?! 6 Steps To Take Your Manuscript To Marketplace in 6 Weeks by Steven Spatz, President of BookBaby.com. Although the book is intended for people who are just breaking into self- publishing, it is packed with useful information about what to do after you have finished writing: how to do a final edit, the benefits of paying for a professional editor, how to find an editor and how much to pay, where to look for cover artists, interior design, distribution, metadata, how much to charge for your book, the pros and cons of self-publishing, and how to plan your marketing timetable.

The End is well-worth downloading even if you have already self-published and know the ropes. Spatz simply knows more about how to climb them. 

BookBaby also offers a very basic how-to manual for first-time self-publishers.

Click HERE for your free download.

 
 
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Here are four publishers that are open to accepting works directly from writers - no agent required. Each has a rather specialized focus, but depending on what you write, one of these may be a good fit. 

Smaller companies, while they may lack clout, can sometimes offer more to new authors than the larger publishing houses. They tend to be more supportive, offering a more hands-on editorial approach, and allowing for greater input from their authors. 

If you publish with a smaller house, you should be prepared to do the majority of your own marketing, but this is increasingly the trend in publishing, even for the larger houses.
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Persea Books

From the website: PERSEA BOOKS is an independent, literary publishing house founded in 1975 by Michael Braziller and Karen Braziller, who still own and direct the company. In addition to our books published for a general readership, we continue to expand our Young Adult selections with highly intelligent books by authors such as Meg Kearney, Anne Mazer, Gary Soto, and Marie Raphael. These works complement our highly acclaimed series of literary anthologies.

Submissions: Queries should include a cover letter, author background and publication history, a synopsis of the proposed work, and a sample chapter. Please indicate if the work is simultaneously submitted. If you would like your manuscript returned to you, enclose a self-addressed envelope with sufficient postage; otherwise, we will recycle it. Send queries and manuscripts to info@perseabooks.com or to the appropriate editor (Fiction or Nonfiction), Persea Books, 277 Broadway, Suite 708, New York, NY 10007.

Genres: Poetry, fiction, essays, memoir, biography, titles of Jewish and Middle Eastern interest, women's studies, American Indian folklore, and YA. Response time: Eight weeks for proposals  and 12 weeks for requested manuscripts.

Read full guidelines HERE.
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Avon

Avon is a division of HarperCollins comprising two imprints, Avon Romance and Avon Impulse (digital). In addition to mass market print and digital publications, Avon has a Wattpad-style writing community, Share Your Book, which votes on writing samples each month.

Submissions

Avon Books (print): should be 80-95,000 words in length

Avon Impulse (digital first): Full -length novels of approximately 50-60,000 words.

Formatting choices are up to you. If they can read it, you can submit it.

No need to submit to a specific editor. If a specific editor has requested your manuscript, please let them know and they’ll get it to her.
  • No need to submit to specific imprint, either; you’ll work with the same editorial team.
  • You should receive an answer either way in about three months.
  • You don’t need an agent.
Read guidelines HERE.  See submission form HERE.
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Milkweed

From the website: "Founded in Minneapolis in 1980, Milkweed Editions is one of the nation’s leading independent, nonprofit literary publishers. Publishing fifteen to twenty books each year, we have some three hundred titles in print, and nearly four million copies of our books in circulation. Over the past three decades, our books and authors have received hundreds of awards and designations of national significance, including three Lannan Literary Awards, four Whiting Awards, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry, three American Book Awards, and seven New York Times Book Review Notable Books of the Year. We are also the proud publisher of thirteen winners of the Minnesota Book Award. Locally, nationally, and internationally, Milkweed Editions is widely respected for the excellence of our publishing program."

Submissions: Milkweed Editions accepts unsolicited manuscripts from authors of all backgrounds, and our editorial staff reviews each submission. In return, we ask that you familiarize yourself with our publishing list in order to determine if your manuscript is a good fit for our press. Submissions that do not initially meet the guidelines will not be considered.

Genres: Fiction, literary nonfiction, poetry collections, YA and middle-grade fiction.

Please read full guidelines here.
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Soft Skull Press

Soft Skull Press is an independent book publisher founded by Sander Hicks in 1992. In 2010, it was sold to Counterpoint LLC, which is distributed by Perseus. Soft Skull is distributed to the book trade by Publishers Group WestFrom the website: Founded in Brooklyn in 1992, Soft Skull’s history is spotted with loveable zealots, underground literati, noble scofflaws, financial bullet-dodging, and indie-lit soldiers fighting the good fight. Soft Skull continues to kick ass in Berkeley, CA.

SubmissionsNonfiction: Please send a cover letter describing your project and a full proposal along with two sample chapters.

Fiction: Please send a cover letter describing your project in detail and a completed manuscript.

The editors only respond to proposals they find of interest. Please do not follow up on a submission via phone or e-mail. No electronic submissions.

Mail submissions to:

Editorial Submissions—[FICTION] or [NONFICTION] Soft Skull Press
2560 Ninth Street, Suite 318
Berkeley, CA 94710

Genres: Every genre imaginable, leaning toward the bare-knuckled, kick-ass counter-cultural.

Read full guidelines HERE.

 
 
PictureThe Favourite Poet by Sir Lawrence Aldama-Tadema
Writer's Digest editor Robert Lee Brewer's answer to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is the PAD (Poem- A-Day) Chapbook Challenge.

Every day during the month of November, poets respond to a daily prompt by writing a poem.

After the month is over, poems are winnowed to 20, then, in December, assembled into a chapbook.

Aside from spurring poets on to bigger and better things, Writer's Digest has a lot of great information for writers of all stripes. You can sign up for the weekly Writer's Digest newsletter  HERE. (It's free!) The Day 1 Challenge prompt  is HERE.

To find daily prompts go to the Writer's Digest home page and scroll down.
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By Robert Brewer, Writer's Digest

Here are the basics of the November PAD Chabook Challenge:

  • Beginning on November 1 (Atlanta, Georgia time), I will share a prompt and poem each day of November on this blog.
  • Poets are then challenged to write a poem each day (no matter where you live on the planet) within 24 hours (or so) from when the prompt is posted. Don’t worry: If you fall behind or start late, you CAN play catch up.
  • Poets do NOT have to register anywhere to participate. In fact, poets don’t even need to post to this blog to be considered participants.
  • The Challenge will unofficially conclude around 24 hours after the final prompt is posted. That said…
  • This Challenge is unique, because I expect poets to take all the material they’ve written in November and create a chapbook manuscript during the month of December. (Yes, you can revise material, and yes, the chapbook should be composed mostly of poems written for the challenge–I’m using the honor system.)
  • Poets have until 11:59 p.m. (Atlanta, GA time) on January 7, 2015, to submit a manuscript that can be 10-20 pages in length (not including table of contents, title page, etc.) with no more than one poem per page. So if you wrote 50 poems in November, you have to narrow them down to the best 20 (or even fewer). Submit manuscripts to robert.brewer@fwcommunity.com with the subject line: 2014 November PAD Chapbook Challenge. (The subject line is very important, because I have a very busy inbox.)
  • The goal will be to announce a winning manuscript by Groundhog Day 2015. February 2, 2015, for those of you unfamiliar with that particular holiday.
What do poets get out of this challenge?

If nothing else, they get several new poems, but I’ve heard plenty of success stories over the years from poets who have gone on to publish individual poems from these challenges and even complete collections (mostly inspired by the challenges).

Plus, the winner gets recognized on this blog, along with many honorable mentions. That’s a good thing.

Regarding comments, this blog has a history with commenting problems, which why I don’t make it mandatory for poets to post on the blog to participate. However, I think poets who do comment get a lot out of it by sharing their work and creating a community on the blog. Just make sure you save all your work elsewhere too – like in a notebook or Word doc. It’s good to have backups.

If you have any additional questions, shoot them to me in the comments.

I can’t wait to see everyone in November.

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Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of the poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He edits Poet’s MarketWriter’s Market, and Guide to Self-Publishing, in addition to writing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter and poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.

This will be his seventh year of hosting and participating in the November PAD (Poem-A-Day) Chapbook Challenge. As much as he loves the hustle and bustle of the April PAD Challenges, November is nice for a few reasons, including the focus on creating a chapbook and just the laid back feel. Some of his favorite poems have come out of the November challenges, and he can’t wait to get started again.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


 

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