…helping you tell a better story


Tweet On! (Or Don’t)

A couple of weeks ago, I taught a class for Book Publishers Northwest called Tweet On: How to Use (And Not Abuse) Twitter to Build Your Platform and Sell Your Books. It was a fun evening, despite (or perhaps because) I don’t currently have a projector that works with my laptop, and so was reduced to drawing the Twitter homepage on a white board: There was one attendee, though, who was not impressed. He announced that he was skeptical of this “social media thing.” He’d tried Twitter already, but didn’t get anything out of it. He used words like shallow, and inane, and silly. Over the next couple of hours, I made my best case for why Twitter is a valuable tool in an author’s marketing tool belt. I talked about how it’s full of book clubs, journalists, editors, and millions (millions!) of readers, plus subject matter experts and influencers who are […]

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5 Ways to Make a Writers’ Conference Work for You

I know I need an agent, but I don’t know where to find one. I don’t know how to start building an author platform…I don’t even know what a platform is! I should join or start a critique group, but I don’t know any other writers! Sound familiar? Aspiring authors and curious writing bystanders say things like this to me a lot, and my answer is always the same: Get Thee to a Writers’ Conference! Although writing a book can be a solitary, introverted activity that you can do without bothering to put on pants, publishing a book is a community activity. Writers’ conferences are the places where we network, visit, and meet the next generation of authors. There are hundreds of multi-day events for writers all over the country and around the world. They’re organized for writers in a particular region, or for a specific genre of writing. Some conferences […]

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Evangeline Denmark’s Path to Publication

How long have you been trying to get published? I don’t mean how long have you dreamed about seeing your book in print. I mean really, seriously, tried to get published? Completed novels, wrote pitches, went to writing conferences? Signed with agents and waited for months to find out if a publisher would offer a contract? How many manuscripts do you have sitting in the proverbial drawer? I like to tell writers that the path to publication is a marathon, not a sprint. Your first draft of your first book is probably not going to be the one that’s ready for readers, let alone the highly-selective, often obscure publishing process. It takes time to develop the craft of writing. Time to build the network of relationships with editors and readers. And often, it takes time to find your voice. No one knows this better than my friend Evangeline Denmark. I […]

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3 Questions Your Book Proposal Must Answer

I’ve been reading a lot of book proposals lately, and even writing one or two of my own. And I’m loving it. I may be the only person in publishing who really loves the process of breaking a book down into a proposal. For many writers, the process of creating a proposal is as hard—or harder—than writing the book itself. Yet it’s a critical, and often project-defining, step. Even if you’re planning to self publish, writing a proposal is a great way to explore and examine your project more deeply, and give you an impartial perspective on its commercial potential. (I wrote a complete book proposal for The Author’s Guide to Marketing, which then became the foundation for my marketing copy, my outline, and my bigger marketing plan.) Plus, agents won’t read your whole manuscript, nor do they have time to take your phone call and listen to you explain […]

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The 20 Must-Read Articles of 2015 for Aspiring Writers

Every month or so, I have the chance to stand in front or a group of people and talk about how to get published. How does a writer go from a manuscript to a published work that readers can buy? One of the points I regularly make—one of the facts I think is critically important and often overlooked—is that a writer has to take the responsibility to understand the publishing industry. You need at least a general idea of how the sausages are made. After all, you wouldn’t decide to open a restaurant or a widget factory without doing your homework about the regulations, the competition, and the best practices affecting your industry. So why would you think that you can just mail off a manuscript and not understand what happens next? So, in the spirit of educating, and giving in to the inevitable lure of a year-end “best of” list, here […]

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You Take the High Road, I’ll Take the Higher Road…

A few days ago, a question came to the email group for the Northwest Independent Editors Guild, a network of professional freelance editors who are both thoughtful and have very good grammar. A member asked the question that plagues many modern authors: should I self publish or seek a publisher? More specifically, this editor wanted to know why there was so much antagonism in the discussion. “I have never heard anyone complain at all about self-publishing photographers or artists of any other kind. But the notion of a self-publishing author seems to make some blood boil: What’s behind that? What does a traditional book-publishing experience offer the writer, and ultimately the reader, that a self-publishing experience takes away?” I thought her comparison of writers to “self publishing” photographers or artists was an interesting one, and it did cast a positive light over the discussion. The emails started to fly, based partly on this fabulous article about The Martian […]

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From World Building to Happily-Ever-After: Exploring Genre Fiction

This past weekend was Beyond the Red Pencil, the largest conference for freelance editors in the country, sponsored by the Northwest Independent Editors Guild. I’ve been a Guild member for five years (as long as I’ve been freelancing) and love the chance to soak up the wisdom of my colleagues. There were sessions on delivering difficult feedback and managing our finances, round table discussions on coaching authors, and lots of time to share stories. It’s a unique event. The most popular swag was a Chicago Manual of Style tote bag. I am all squeals over this CMOS reusable bag swag at #EdsGuild2015 pic.twitter.com/LdvQNWjoba — Laura Poole (@lepoole) October 10, 2015   Our keynote speaker argued against rigid interpretations of passive sentences and complained about the ways people use “literally,” and was rewarded with adoration. Sitting a few feet away from Steven Pinker eating a scone. No big deal. #EdsGuild2015 pic.twitter.com/YhewcLhKz4 […]

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A Little Perspective on POV

I’ve been editing a lot of fiction recently, and talking to a lot of other editors who work with fiction. And so I’ve found myself developing a rather strong point of view about POV. A little background: Point of View (POV) is the perspective from which a story is told. Generally speaking, it’s divided into three types: first person (where the narrator of the book is the primary character, and writes as “I” and “me” throughout); omniscient (where the narrator observes and describes the events of the book from an all-knowing distance; the narrator sees more than any single character and can also foreshadow the future); and third person (where the narration is written in he/she/they, but narrator limits him/herself to the limited perspective of a single character; the writer unwraps the story as that character experiences it, using only what they can see/hear/know). Each type of narration can also be […]

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Why Everyone Isn’t Going to Read Your Book

Who will read your book? When I start working with a new client, either on the marketing or the editing side, I always ask some version of this question. All too often, the answer I get is some variation of “Everyone will like my book! It will appeal to women and men, from their teens all the way to senior citizens! People who don’t even read books will want to read this one!” Sorry, wrong answer. Nothing appeals to Everyone. Even Harry Potter and the Bible have their serious fans and their detractors. In my experience, if an author hasn’t thought deeply about their readers, and they don’t have a basic understanding of who those readers are and what they like, it’s a sign that they haven’t yet really thought deeply about what happens when their book comes out, either. They haven’t shifted gears from “writer” to “ready-to-publish author.” Part of your Author job is to promote yourself […]

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Why Isn’t My Social Media Selling More Books?

My week is full of marketing meetings with authors. And, since this is the twenty-first century, at some point every conversation about marketing comes back to social media. We’ve all heard that authors need some kind of social media presence. But all social media is not the same, and it certainly doesn’t all get the same results. If you’re a new writer wondering why your Facebook page or Twitter feed isn’t generating the kind of attention you think it should, ask yourself a few questions: 1.       Am I being social, or am I self promoting? You’ve seen the accounts, with a long string of spammy sales messages with more exclamation points than substance. “Buy my book!” “Look, I have a book!” “Hey, my #book is for #sale—go buy it!!!!” If you are only using social media to promote your book and try to generate immediate sales, you’re missing the point, and you’re turning […]

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Latest Post

  • It’s Up to You to Get Noticed (Before You Self Publish #5)
    If you want to self publish, you will have to work to get noticed. Here we are at last, on the final point of this blog series “Before You Self Publish.” So far we’ve talking about the importance of thinking like a CEO, the danger of releasing a book too soon, the value of print, and the importance of the...
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