Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Before debuting as a novelist, I was a journalist at a large newspaper for 25 years. So I became accustomed to seeing my words in print. What I wasn't accustomed to was the ugly "R-word" so peculiar to book publishing.


I started out believing that my accomplishments as a journalist would impress the large publishing houses. Man, was I wrong ... at least when it comes to fiction. As far as the editors at the major houses were concerned, I was just another debut novelist writing in an absurdly glutted genre.

I worked at the St. Petersburg Times from 1978-2003 and then was lucky enough to retire while still in my mid-40s and become a full-time novelist. In September 2004, I wrote the first word of Book One (entitled The Pit) of my six-book epic fantasy. Seven-hundred-thousand words later, I am in the final revision process of Book Six. I finished The Pit in January 2005 and immediately began a search for an agent. Through luck as much as anything else, I was accepted by an agent just a month after I sent out my first queries. (At the time, he was relatively new to the business and not yet snowed under. Now he's top of the line, and he rarely has the time to even consider debut novelists, much less sign them. So maybe this is my one big secret to getting published: Find an agent who is relatively new, do as much research as possible to make sure he or she is legit, and then take the plunge.) Needless to say, I was excited. After all, I had heard that only one in a hundred debut novelists manage to secure an agent, while 50 percent of those who do eventually are published.

Immediately, my agent began submitting The Pit to the mega-houses, but first-time fiction is an extremely difficult sell nowadays. In some regards, it would be easier to win the lottery, buy the publishing house, appoint yourself president, and then publish your book than it would be to gain an acceptance in the traditional manner. By the middle of 2005, kindly worded rejections began trickling in. And they kept trickling in. The next thing I knew, it was 2007 and I still didn't have a deal, despite the fact that I was convinced I had written the great fantasy epic of the past ten years. The problem was, me being convinced and them being convinced were two different animals.

Finally in early 2007, a publisher came along that agreed with me. When Rain Publishing Inc. (a mid-sized, traditional house based in Canada) accepted my series, I was thrilled to finally have achieved what to me was a lifelong dream. Yet even then my excitement was muted. I was higher on the ladder than those who had chosen self-publishing, but by no means was I guaranteed to become the next J.K. Rowling. The smaller the house, the smaller the distribution. And don't even get me started on the marketing end of things. I could go on forever.

So now, Books 1-3 already are in print and Books 4-6 will be out by the end of February 2008. It's been a whirlwind, to say the least. But fun at the same time. Will I become the next J.K. Rowling? Probably not. But at least I've got a puncher's chance.

And I throw a nasty overhand write ... er ... right.

Jim Melvin is the author of The Death Wizard Chronicles (Rain Publishing Inc. Sept. 2007), a six-book epic fantasy. Please visit his blog at http://www.deathwizardchronicles.blogspot.com/.

Friday, December 21, 2007

DEVIL'S ORCHESTRA by Sydney Molare

The best way to get published traditionally? Give editors what they want. Bottom line.
And what do editors want? They want a well written story, that requires minor editing AND which you deliver on time.

Authors have to face the fact, you get no more than five seconds (and that's stretching it) in that query letter to grab the editor. So no need to put the tasty morsels of your work in the third paragraph or on page two. It's got to be in-you-face or as the marketers call it, guerilla tactics, from the jump.

Once you pique their interest, your manuscript has got to be polished. Yes, editing costs, but not editing may cost you more. Use the latest technology (text-to-voice translation, speller checker) as well as a human editor and have your work spit-shined and honed to the best of your ability before you send it to your agent to shop.

A story an editor or their reader knows "flows" nicely and in which they actually "get" the message you are conveying the first time out of the gate has a better chance of being published than the I-like-it-but-it-needs-a-lot-of-work story. Time is money and the less time spent editing on their end, the quicker they can make money for both the writer and publishing house.
And always note your deadline. This needs to be every published authors mantra: Deliver what they asked for by the time asked for. A deadline is given for a reason and it's normally because: That's when they need your material in order to reach their next deadline in the production process. Let your reputation be for delivering on time.

Having done the self-published as well as traditional route, I would also have to say, putting your work out there gets you noticed. When I first queried agents, I stuck the self-published version of the work inside. They didn't have to guess what came after the first three chapters. It was there from beginning to ending.

Despite what many critics say, taking a chance on self-publishing has never been a downside for me. Heck, I've already got a product and track record so they can judge for themselves whether I've got the writing style they want.

In my opinion, the biggest secret is this bottom line is: Give the editors what they want.

Thanks for having me!

You can visit Sydney at www.sydneymolare.com.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I'm a Ph.D. clinical psychologist who's spent more than half my life in school. Plus I have a typical New England obsessive and guilty work ethic.

So when I'm presented with a seemingly insurmountable challenge and getting published surely fits that bill, I turn to my most finely-honed skill: research.

In 1998, I hatched the idea of writing a mystery about a woman caddie on the men's golf tour and her pal, a sports psychologist. With Tiger Woods mania incinerating the PGA Tour, I was sure the story idea would be a natural.

Besides, this was fun! Any time I spent on the golf course or attending tournaments or even reading golf magazines was, you guessed it, research.

After an agonizing two years of writing, rewriting, and rewriting some more, I felt I was ready to look for an agent. I knew there was no magic formula for this subject, and I had absolutely no contacts in the publishing business. So again I turned to the process I knew best--research.

I studied Elizabeth Lyon's The Sell Your Novel Toolkit and Jeff Herman's Writer's Guide to Book Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents. And I read Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, and Sheree Bykofsky's Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting Published, and Noah Lukeman's The First Five Pages.

I made huge charts of agents who had interests like mine (mystery, sports, psychology), or who had some feature in their personal background that made me think we might connect, or who had sold books with some similarity to mine. I attended mystery conventions (Bouchercon, Malice Domestic, and Left Coast Crime) and talked with people there about the publishing process.

I attended the International Women's Writers Guild Meet the Agents forum in New York City (http://www.iwwg.com/) . I groveled in front of everyone I knew even remotely connected with the publishing business. And I suffered through multiple rejections and shouldered gamely forward, my skin toughening by the hour. Finally, I hired an independent editor to give me fairly inexpensive but useful feedback on my manuscript. When I'd finished my rewrites, she
directed me to several agents.

Around the same time, I dragged myself into New York City for a second round of the IWWG's Meet the Agents hysteria. One hundred and fifty wannabe writers crowded the hall to hear nine agents speak about their areas of interest. Then, as Hannelore Hahn, president of IWWG, put it, we rushed like wolves to the front of the room, and lined up to give our two minute pitches to the agent we felt most closely matched our interests. The agent I chose asked for a three-week exclusive look at my manuscript. I sent it off, working to keep my expectations low. Two weeks later she called with the news that a second agent had seen the manuscript on her desk, read it,
and wanted to represent me. Hurray!
Next came the agony of my agent passing the manuscript around to various editors and receiving polite rejections. After about six months of this, an editor at the Berkley Prime Crime imprint of Penguin Putnam expressed interest in my idea and my character with a caveat. They wanted my character to start out as a golfer, not a caddie. At home, I kicked and screamed
and said "no way!" On the phone, I argued politely and persuasively. But the editorial board felt that a series featuring a prime time player would sell better than if the character was in a supporting role; it was their way or no way. So, like Kenny Rogers, I knew when to fold'em, and Cassie Burdette went to the LPGA qualifying school in my first mystery, Six Strokes Under.

That was almost six years ago and my seventh book has just hit the bookstores: PREACHING TO THE CORPSE, second in the advice column mystery series (Berkley.) These are the only "secrets" I know: hone your craft, polish your work, toughen your hide, network, network, network. And repeat.
Good luck!
PREACHING TO THE CORPSE, Berkley Prime Crime, in stores now!

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007


The first thing we did as far as promotion was align with a charity and then write and distribute a few e-news releases/ezine articles; the media loves and needs charity in its news. You find your heartwarming angle and you can sell the news. If I did it again, I'd start in the real world instead of online. If you're willing to put just a little bit of money into your campaign, you can end up with guaranteed press. There are a lot of ingenious firms and angles out there today.

The move I'd most recommend is finding a charitable tie-in, mine is breast cancer, and then create your news angle and approach your local news outlets. Sounds cliché, but
if you live in a city of 100k to, say, 600k, they're dying for people like you. It's such a manageable size with only so many potential stars. Yet, those cities have to fill newspapers, radio shows, and TV news broadcasts just like their counterparts in larger cities. If you live somewhere more vast, a major metro area, find your section of the metro and begin there. Find a community newspaper or smaller radio show or a
local retail outlet or a charitable program that needs an expert in your market/industry/genre, and create the next big thing; make yourself into a hero, into a bona fide HOME-GROWN star. Then, you can take that press nugget and ease into other markets. "Hey, look at what kind of press he gets in Moline? He should be on the cover of the Arts section in Des Moines. Put him there!" Now, that's a little melodramatic, but you get the point. It's all image, you know? It's not like today's Hollywood is brimming with talent; the town simply sells "image" by the boat-load.
Get it?

Also, we learned the whole SEO game recently. That, to this point, has been our only real online promotion. We're in the process of establishing an affiliate program, as well as a couple of other unique angles, but thus far the SEO has yielded roughly 10,000 unique visitors per month.

Most effective has been word of mouth. Now, that doesn't mean that we receive a majority of our books sales via word of mouth. It merely means that when someone recommends our books to a friend, family member, or colleague, the close rate--or "sell rate"--is almost 100%. That's gold to anyone marketing themselves.

Nelson Pahl is the author of BEE BALMS & BURGUNDY. You can visit his website at http://www.nelsonpahl.com/ or his blog at http://www.nelsonpahl.blogspot.com/.

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