Bad Review? What's That?

What happens when a book you've published receives bad reviews?
It can impact sales—depending on who gives the review and how legitimate the review seems to readers.

If the review is just a slam, filled with typos, poor grammar, or personalized comments, most people ignore it—as do we. If the review is intelligent, well-written, and seemingly unbiased, it can cause us grief. Then we cry and cuss and stomp around, howl and gnash our teeth, cover ourselves with sackcloth and ashes, burn effigies of the reviewer. You know. The usual stuff people do when they're disappointed.

Depending on where the review was published and what was said, we might try to get fans of the book and/or author to publish contrasting viewpoints. For example, if it's on amazon or a blog, we might encourage the author to encourage their fans to post polite comments that disagree with the reviewer, or to post their own positive reviews online—but only if that was their honest opinion.

But most of the time, we don't really do anything about it. If the book is good, fans are already out there posting positive comments. If the bad review is deserved then we use that information to do better next time.

Only once have I ever personally contradicted an online review. The reviewer complained that the non-fiction book included every scripture and quote by a general authority on the topic. From our point of view, that was the selling point of the book. Need info on this topic? Here's all you ever wanted to know—and then some. So I politely stated that in their comment section. I also identified myself as the publisher. That particular review didn't seem to hamper sales. We did just fine.


Newly Released LDS Fiction

This week's new titles over on the LDS Fiction blog:

Fablehaven: The Grip of the Shadow Plague (vol. 3) by Brandon Mull

Did we miss any? If we did, let me know.

We've also posted the next contest and the winner of last week's contest.


How many people do I have to bribe to get published?

How many people in your company have to be convinced a book can sell before you offer a contract?
14 1/2.

Just kidding.

I'm not sure what the purpose behind this question is. Knowing the answer won't really make a difference in the process as far as the writer is concerned—unless you want to try to bribe everyone who is involved in the decision making process. (That probably won't help much either.)

But to answer your curiosity, this varies a lot between companies, depending on their size. Job positions that have to be on board are Editor, Readers, Marketing, Management. Each of these positions may be held by one single individual in a very small company or there may be committees of editors, readers, marketing people, and managers that have to be in agreement in a large company. Some companies may require a consensus, some only a majority. The opinions of some people on the committees may carry more weight than others. There may be one person at the top of the chain who has veto power, regardless of how many others think it's a good idea; or one person may have the power to push a project through, regardless of how many people think the book won't sell.

Bottom line: the answer to this question won't help you get published. Write a good book, send it to the publisher or editor you think will love it and move on.


Yearly Submissions Tally

How many fiction submissions do you receive each month/year at your company?

How many non-fiction submissions do you receive each month/year at your company?
I don't really want to say how many my company gets because that could out my secret identity. But I can give you a range—a very small LDS Publisher might get anywhere from 10 to 100 queries/submissions a year. A medium-sized LDS Publisher gets 200 to 500 a year. In our company we get slightly more non-fiction submissions than fiction, probably 60/40—but the fiction submissions are increasing every year.

Lisa Mangum said DB receives 1500 manuscripts in a year, but I don't know the breakdown for fiction/nonfiction.

If any other publishers would like to chime in with their specifics, go ahead. You can do so anonymously if you like.


Celebrating Summer Short Story Contest Sponsors

A huge thank you to the following authors whose books are sponsoring the Celebrating Summer Short Story Contest.

Publisher's Choice, Published Author Category Prize: Freefall by Traci Hunter Abramson

Lieutenant Brent Miller arrived in the Middle East with one objective — get seven hostages out of a hostile country. The plan almost worked. But now he has been left behind — with one of the hostages. It's up to Brent to get Amy Whitmore, an LDS Senator's daughter, across miles of desert to safety. What he doesn't know is that to survive, he needs her as much as she needs him.

Originally from Arizona, Traci Hunter Abramson graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in business. She moved to northern Virginia where she worked for the Central Intelligence Agency for six years. Traci started writing over ten years ago after resigning from the CIA. Freefall is her fifth published book.

Reader's Choice, Published Author Category Prize: The Final Farewell by Patricia Wiles

Growing up can be hard. Especially if you live in a funeral home and your friends have either moved away, turned away—or been turned under. Now that Kevin is getting close to graduation, the decisions he always thought would be simple are becoming increasingly difficult. Everyone seems to be changing, including him. He wonders if he really should serve a two-year Church mission—or if he should accept the scholarship he's been offered in the field he loves. After all, the scholarship is a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and he feels like he has nothing to say when he goes out with the local missionaries. Kevin needs help to find an answer. However, just when he thinks he has made up his mind, a disaster strikes that could change everything.

Patricia Wiles began her writing career as a public radio commentator and newspaper columnist. Her essays and commentary have appeared in Writer's Digest, The Writer, and the 2001 Writer's Handbook. She is the assistant regional advisor of the Midsouth chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and works as a staff writer for a daily newspaper.

Patricia's first and second novels in the Kevin Kirk Chronicles series, My Mom's a Mortician and Funeral Home Evenings, received awards for middle grade and Young Adult fiction from the Association for Mormon Letters. The other two books in the series are Early Morning Cemetery and The Final Farewell.

Patricia and her husband have two daughters and a son—all of whom have left the nest. Their cat, however, is a moocher who refuses to move out and get his own place.

Publisher's Choice, Unpublished Author Category Prize: Spires of Stone by Annette Lyon

Bethany Hansen wasn't sure when or if she would ever see Benjamin Adams again. She also told herself that it didn't matter. But when Ben and his two brothers come home after more than two years of serving a mission to the Eastern states, her feelings of heartache and anger also return—fiercer than ever. And so do Ben's feelings for her.

Good-naturedly, Ben's brothers attempt to reunite the two, even as they separately vie for Bethany's younger sister, Hannah. What follows is a charming historical romance based on a Shakespeare classic, complete with wonderful characters and witty dialogue that explores the redemption and power of finding--and rediscovering--true love.

Annette Lyon was given the 2007 Best of State medal for fiction in Utah and was a 2007 Whitney Award finalist for her fifth book, Spires of Stone. She's been writing for most of her life, beginning with stories about mice in second grade. While she's found success in magazine and business writing, her true passion is fiction. In 1995, she graduated cum laude from BYU with a BA in English. Annette enjoys reading, knitting, and chocolate—not necessarily in that order.

Reader's Choice, Unpublished Author Category Prize: Season of Sacrifice by Tristi Pinkston

Sarah Williams is a young Welsh immigrant, coming to Utah to join her sister Mary Ann Perkins. When the Perkins are asked to join the San Juan mission to pioneer a trail through Southern Utah, they take Sarah along to help care for the children. But a six-week journey turns into six agonizing months of hard work and toil as the Saints blast their way through a cliff to bring their wagons through what would become the famous Utah landmark "Hole in the Rock."

Finally settled in the San Juan, Sarah's true hardship begins when Ben Perkins asks her to be his second wife. With their faith and testimonies challenged to the core, both Sarah and Mary Ann struggle to find the true meaning of Christ-like love and obedience. Will they make it through?

Tristi Pinkston has been writing since the age of five, when she wrote and illustrated her first literary masterpiece, Sue the Dog. Her first published novel, Nothing to Regret, was sparked by a strange dream which piqued her interest in World War II. Her second book, Strength to Endure, is also about World War II but from the perspective of a German family. Tristi's third book, Season of Sacrifice, was inspired by the true story of her great-grandparents.


Elements of a Good Book Cover

What are the elements of a good book cover?
There is only one purpose for a book cover—to make you pick up the book. When someone is browsing in the bookstore, you've got a matter of seconds to grab their attention so your book cover needs to be fresh, unique, interesting, and it needs to stand out from all the other books on the shelves. It also needs to be representative of your story—either a photo or illustration of your characters or an image that evokes the feel of the story.

A really good book cover pops out at you because the designer has used imagery, color, font and layout to create something that grabs the eye and holds it. Creating a good cover requires an artistic eye, a feel for what is currently in fashion, knowledge of the science and psychology of art, and some skill at manipulating the observer through the use of the various cover elements.

As to what works best—light vs dark covers, photos vs illustrations, simple vs complex, conservative vs unique fonts, etc.—that depends on your genre, your customer demographics and current trends.

If you want a lesson in good vs bad book covers, go browse at a bookstore. You'll recognize the good ones because they'll be the ones that catch your eye and hold it.


Newly Released LDS Fiction

This week's new titles over on the LDS Fiction blog:

Spare Change by Aubrey Mace

Keeper of Dreams by Orson Scott Card

Did we miss any? If we did, let me know.

We've also posted the next contest and the winner of last week's contest. (I'm out of sponsors for this weekly contest. Contact me if you're interested.)

ALSO, for the Celebrating Summer writing contest, I have two sponsors and need two more. Contact me soon. First contacts get the spots.


Celebrating Summer Short Story Contest

It's time for another writing contest! Winter has gone on too long. Spring keeps teasing us, then disappearing again. My brain has turned to sludge. So, let's play.

Celebrating Summer!
Contest Details

Pretend Scenario: I'm "publishing" a one-issue magazine of short stories that celebrate summer. Stories for inclusion in the magazine will be based upon quality of writing, uniqueness, and general appeal.

There will be four winners. Publisher's Choice and Readers Choice prizes will be awarded. Published authors and unpublished authors will be judged separately.

Write a story in any genre that in some way includes and/or celebrates summer.

Keep it a PG rating—no swearing, sex or graphic violence.

Word count: 500–1500

Stories published anywhere other than your personal website or blog are ineligible. (That includes books, magazines, e-zines or other contests.)

Stories submitted for previous contests on this site are also ineligible.

Paste entire story into an e-mail. NO ATTACHMENTS, please.

In your e-mail, indicate whether or not you are a published author. For the purposes of this contest, "published" is defined as someone compensated you (money or goods) for your story or book. (Either a publisher paid you or you self-published and people bought your book.)

You may submit more than one story. Send each submission in a separate e-mail.

SUBMIT your story any time between now and Friday, May 9th Midnight, Sunday, May 11th

I will post the stories in the order that they arrive.

Readers Choice voting will be between May 12th and May 16th. I will post details on how to vote on May 12th.

I will post comments and announce the winners on Monday, May 19th.

PRIZES: I need some contest sponsors. For details on becoming a sponsor, click here.


The Bare Necessities of an Internet Presence

Yesterday, Jeff Savage addressed the topic of blogging over on Six LDS Writers and a Frog. Go read it. I agree with him.

For those of you too lazy to click the link, he made the point that if you're an author and you don't want to blog, don't feel like you have to do it. For as much as I've pushed blogging here on this site, you may be surprised that I agree with that statement. Here's why: If blogging is a chore to you, it will come out in your presentation and will not serve you in your quest to build your fan base. Same thing goes for social networking, virtual tours, etc., etc.

However (you knew that was coming, didn't you?), in the world we live in, the Internet is a powerful source of information and many readers go there first in their search for new books to read. In my opinion, every author NEEDS an Internet presence. This presence can be a website, a blog or an author bio page on your publisher's site.

For beginning authors, whose publishers may not offer bio pages (or whose bio pages are substandard in design and info) and who may not have the skills or funds to set up a website, free blogs are a simple solution. You don't have to blog on a blog—you can make one that is more like a static website, if you want. (WordPress, with it's easy tabs and pages, works a little better for this.) If you don't make regular changes to it, it may not show up very high when someone Googles you, but it will exist and they will be able to find it.

Your internet presence, however you choose to establish it, should have as a minimum the following:
  • Welcome message—a pleasant message welcoming the visitor to the site.

  • Book Info—containing an image of the cover, title, a short blurb, other pertinent information, and a LINK to where it can be purchased online. It can be as simple as what is posted over on the LDS Fiction blog. You need info on every book you've published.

  • New Release/Coming Soon—same as the book info, but this needs to be in a distinct area (like at the top or on its own tab) so that it stands out from the others.

  • Author Bio—containing a short, professional bio on yourself with a nice photo. Nice meaning that it's crisp and clear and that you look like an author someone would like to meet.


Storymakers: Tim Travaglini, Putnam Editor (#2)

Notes from the 2008 LDStorymakers Conference

Workshop: Improve Your Writing
Presenter: Tim Travaglini, Sr Editor @ Putnam, Workshop on Saturday
Submitted by: gwynnwynn

Mr. Travaglini talked about several ways we can improve our writing. He said they were not necessarily in order of importance, and some were more important than others but he didn't always indicate which were the more important ones. Mr. Travaglini had a very relaxed presentation style and I couldn't always tell when he was changing topics. I wish I had better organized notes, but I was writing as fast as I could and I know I missed a few things.

Voice is the most important and most difficult to fix. This is where a huge component of natural talent comes in, although it can be learned.

Know your character intimately—what they had for breakfast, their dog's name, their childhood, etc. Write a bio for your character, with description and everything. Ask yourself: Why do I love them? Are my characters appealing to me?

Narrative tension is tied into conflict. It motivates the reader to care about what's going on. Bring plot in as early as you can. Weaknesses in this area include conflict that lacks weight or significance, that is trivial or misleading, scenes that don't move forward, tangents or extra threads, taking too much time in the wrong place.

Conflict and resolution—you have to have something for your protagonist to overcome. There is no plot if there is no conflict; no ending if there is no resolution. When writing for children, your protagonist needs to resolve the conflict for themselves; cannot be resolved by parent or circumstances.

Sympathetic Protagonist—voice gives you a lot. If your reader falls in love with the character, you will have instant sympathy. Sympathy can also be created by the story, what's happening. Anti-heroes are flawed characters and the story must be about their redemption. You also need to humanize your antagonist.

Secondary characters—you have to know them as well as your protagonist. You need to know whoever walks onto your stage as intimately as you do your protagonist.

Fresh take. There are no new stories. There are only 7 basic narrative structures in human storytelling but you need to make it stand out in some way. You need an original twist or interpretation.

You need a beginning, middle and end. This creates the narrative arc. Beginning needs to draw you in. It needs to have immediacy. He says, don't use flashbacks ever—and if you do, they need to be brief and blended seamlessly into the text. You need a narrative arc. Are you building toward a climax?

Hooks are very important. First sentence needs to get you to read the first paragraph, which gets you to read the first page, which gets you to read the first chapter.

Internal logic—does your story make sense to an outsider?

Point of View (POV)—Which is right? Once you decide, don't shift.

Pace—if the scene is not moving the story forward, the pace will be off.

Consider the following for the rest of your career:

1. What makes for a most compelling character? Who are your favorite literary characters and why?

2. What makes for the most compelling storyline/conflicts? What are your favorite and why?

3. How can you reach the broadest possible audience? Don't over think. Your author's passion drives you to create good work.

4. Do you even want to reach a broad audience?

5. Are you willing to make the completion of your work the most important thing? You have to be devoted to the work, to the writing. Treat it like it's important. Your writing will not improve unless your answer is yes.

6. Are you committed to making your work the best it can possibly be? Will you sacrifice your ego for your work? Will you seek and entertain criticism and revisions.

7. Revisit and reread your favorite books and answer questions 1 & 2.


Newly Released LDS Fiction

This week's new titles over on the LDS Fiction blog:

The Holy Secret by James Ferrell

The Arthurian Omen by G.G. Vandagriff

Against the Giant by Christy Hardman

The Littlest Nephite
by Bevan Olsen

Did we miss any? If we did, let me know.

We've also posted the next contest and the winner of last week's contest. (Yea!)


Storymakers: Two Panels

Notes from the 2008 LDStorymakers Conference

Workshop: Publishers Panel
Presenter: Chris Bigelow, Zarahemla; Lisa Mangum, Deseret Book; Kammi Rencher, Cedar Fort; Kirk Shaw, Covenant
Submitted by: Shy Submitter

The panel began with each publisher telling us what they were looking for.
Chris/Zarahemla: provocative, unconventional stories that are ultimately faith confirming.
Lisa/Deseret Book: YA, historical with or without romance, beginner chapter books.
Kammi/CFI: stories with potential to crossover to national, with LDS values and themes.
Kirk/Covenant: suspense, romance, historical, historical epic series, good non-fiction (self-help), gift books

Q: There are no LDS agents because they would not make any money. But assuming someone was willing to work for very little, would LDS publishers be willing to work with agents?
A: They all said yes.

Q: What type of content is not allowed?
A: No swearing, graphic violence and sex, no false doctrine, careful with polygamy; PG rating. (All agreed, but Zarahemla was a little more lenient on these.)

Q: What are the differences between the LDS and national markets?
A: A best seller for an LDS book is 20,000 copies sold; national is 100,000. National publishers can potentially sell to the whole world; LDS publishers are limited to the number of members of the Church, 13 million (much less, if you limit it to English speaking). There is less direct competition in the LDS market. National market needs more lead time from acceptance to publication.

Q: What is expected from the author in terms of marketing their book?
A: Chris/Zarahemla: networking, website, readings, bookstore events, especially in home town.
Lisa/Deseret Book: as much as you can do; blog, website, networking skills, available for interviews.
Kammi/CFI: active, working connections and resources, blog, website, radio or TV connections (if you have them), book signings.
Kirk/Covenant: book signings are not a big seller for them; brainstorm with marketing department, articles for magazines, be proactive.

Workshop: Authors Panel on Agents
Presenter: JANETTE RALLISON, 700,000 books sold; agent: Erin Murphy; JEFF SAVAGE, 4 books, 2 Covenant titles released this year, national YA fantasy with Shadow Mountain this year; agent: Jackie Sack @ Bookends, Inc.; BRANDON SANDERSON, national epic fantasy, children's books with Scholastic, published in 15 languages, 2 movie deals, agent: Joshua Bilmes @ Jabberwocky; JAMES DASHNER, 4 Jimmy Fincher books, 13th Reality with Shadow Mountain, currently looking for a new agent.

[Shy Submitter apologizes for not noting who said what; this is the collective wisdom of the panel.]

Agent fees are generally 15% for US rights, foreign rights are 10% to the US agent and 10% to the foreign agent.

Royalties are sent to the agent who takes their fees and sends the rest to you. They also send you a 1099 at the end of the year.

Agents need to have a good relationship with editors and publishers.

Before signing with an agent, check them out. Who are their other clients? Contact them and see if they are happy. How many books do they place each year? Which books have they placed in the past year? What is the average advance they are able to get for their authors?

Check them out: Writers Beware, Predators and Editors have lists of good and bad agents, also some sample contracts. Other helpful sites are Show Me the Money (Brenda Hiatt/Romance) and Locus (sci-fi/fantasy), AgentQuery.com.

Agents contracts can be as short as one page and should cover: how long they will represent the work, how much they will be paid, how to end the contract.

Marketing: Publishers send out ARCs (Advance Reading Copies). Some send 100, some send 1,000s. They may do conventions. Author is expected to do a website, bookmarks, book signings, school visits (children & YA), word of mouth. Join genre groups for support and ideas.

1% of the population are readers; the rest read an average of 1 book per year.


Writers Groups

I see on your blog and those of various others talking to LDS writers that finding a good writing/reviewing group is crucial. I am just starting to write, have no connections with other writers, and basically have no idea where to start to find such a group. Do you have any thoughts?

I've blogged about this topic before. You can read the posts here and here.

Let me just stress that the BEST place to find potential writer group participants is at a local writers conference. Where do you find writers conferences? Check at your local colleges and universities. Go online and find organizations and forums in your genre and join them, then start looking for others in your area.

Also, about those guidelines for a writers group, don't know what I've done with them. But here are some good guidelines posted online: here, here, and here.


Storymakers: Lisa Mangum, Deseret Book Editor

Notes from the 2008 LDStorymakers Conference

Workshop: Making the Leap
Presenter: Lisa Mangum, Workshop on Friday
Submitted by: Shy Submitter

Five things you can't control:
1. It's a business. We look for what's going to make money. Buying a book in the store is an emotional decision. Buying a manuscript to publish is a business decision.

2. Number of manuscripts submitted in a given year. Deseret Book receives 1500 manuscripts in one year. Of those, 30 are published. [I think this was fiction books?] DB produces 150 products a year, which includes all books, audio, music and paperback reprints.

3. Number of available slots for new authors. DB always has some slots reserved for new authors, but the number varies. In 2006, they published 60 books; 11 were from first time authors.

4. Other manuscripts submitted that are similar to yours. They don't want to publish two books in the same year that will compete with each other. Don't write to a trend. They accept 1 to 2 years out, so by the time a trend is identified, it's over. Be the first of what's coming next.

5. Her mood. It's easier to reject a book when the editor is having a bad day. Sending chocolate won't help. She'll eat the chocolate, but it doesn't change her decision.

Five things you can control:
1. Do your homework. Answer these six questions before submitting: a) Am I in the right slush pile? b) Who is going to buy this? Young girls, women, children? c) How is your book different? Know what's on the market and how your book is different/better. d) What are people buying? Talk to librarians, check best seller lists, etc. e) What is your marketing plan? What special outlets do you have? f) Have I let five honest people give me feedback? People who love you don't count.

2. Follow posted submission guidelines. Please! Make the envelope easy to open. If you want your manuscript returned, send a big enough envelope.

3. Write a killer cover letter. This is your most important page. This is a business letter. Difference between query and cover letter—query is "I'm writing XYZ. Are you interested?"; cover is longer with more detail, informative. Including some proposed back cover copy is fine. 80 to 85% of the titles are changed, but DO put a title on it.

4. Showcase your talent. Include your writing credentials, writing organizations you belong to (like SCBWI), what you've written even if it's not published, show us you have more than one book in you, that we can get a book a year out of you.

5. Deal with your rejection letters. Any type of personalized comment on a rejection letter is good. They only detail what's wrong if it was a close call. Keep writing, keep working because you can't imagine not doing it. "Don't worry. Don't hurry. Don't stop."

Other miscellaneous things:
It takes about two years from acceptance to published book.
They respond in 10 to 12 weeks; you may call or e-mail after 12 weeks.
If you've done significant rewrites, you may resubmit.


Ghostwriting and Book Doctoring

I am interested in becoming an editor or ghostwriter. I have now started reading a book that was published without being edited, and in desperate need of a ghost writer. These writers all had valuable ideas, but no support or advice for how to make it a well written book. I want to help. How do I become qualified or listed, or whatever I have to do to break into this area?
Technically, this is outside the scope of this blog, but I decided to address it because published authors are frequently approached about ghostwriting books for other people.

If you're interested in having your own career as a published author, I'd suggest staying away from ghostwriting and concentrating on your own stories. However, some excellent writers struggle with new ideas but are great at shining up the work of others and receive lots of personal fulfillment from doing so. If this is the case, then ghostwriting and/or book doctoring might be something for you to consider.

In ghostwriting, generally you write the entire book from someone else's outline and research notes; they put their name on the cover and you are listed briefly in the acknowledgments. Sometimes they'll give you credit on the front, as in "by Jane Doe, with Sue Smith." (You would be Sue Smith.)

A book doctor takes a nearly complete manuscript and fixes it, often rewriting major portions. Credit and acknowledgments are the same as with ghostwriting, but since the author wrote the first draft of the book and you are merely polishing it, they rarely give you credit on the front cover.

Qualifications are: you need to be a good editor/writer, able to fix the words of others without obscuring their original voice. Create a bio listing your writing credentials or industry experience. Put together a portfolio of your work to show people.

Pricing varies widely for these services. Do some Googling and then decide what you're worth. In the beginning, the first time you work with a new client, you should be willing to do one chapter free to show them what they can expect from you. After you have several published books, you can show those as samples.

As to how to "break in" to the business, you most likely will not be hired by a publishing company unless you know someone in the biz who is willing to give you a chance. Also, a publishing company would hire you as an editor for an hourly rate, which is going to be much less than freelancing as a ghostwriter.

You will most likely be working with non-fiction first-time authors or experts in a particular area who do great workshops and presentations and need a book to extend the reach of their message. Set up a website, get business cards, spread the word that you're open for business. You'll get your first few clients based on the strength of your personality and confidence. After that, they will (hopefully) start referring their friends and colleagues to you.


Newly Released LDS Fiction

This past week, we added three new titles over on the LDS Fiction blog:

A Banner is Unfurled: Glory from On High (vol.3) by Marci Gallacher & Kerri Robinson

Mom Says I Can by Judy Cooley

The Crayon Messages by Christine Thackeray

Did we miss any? If we did, let me know.

We've also posted the next contest and the winner of last week's contest. (Yea!)

Bit of business: I know that more than two people attended the LDStorymakers Conference last month but so far I've only had two people send me their notes. If you attended, PLEASE, send me your notes from some of your favorite classes.


Storymakers: Kirk Shaw, Covenant Editor

Notes from the 2008 LDStorymakers Conference

Workshop: Ten Ways to Get Your Story Noticed
Presenter: Kirk Shaw, Workshop on Friday
Submitted by: Karlene Browning

(I have 10 things on my list but they don't match up well with the 10 things in the syllabus, so if someone else wants to add to this list, please feel free to go right ahead and do it.)

First, he said that if we attended the conference, we could use his name and submit directly to him, skipping the slush pile entirely. He said he's looking for: gift books, 32 page children's picture books, suspense, action, romance, historical epics, YA and childrens (chapter books). He stressed that they needed to be a good read and DYNAMIC.

1. Cover letter—Do research to make sure they publish your type of book. First paragraph should include word count, genre and subgenre (ex: not just "mystery" but "who-done-it cop story"). You can also say it's similar to a particular author. Don't use modifiers. Be objective: "this is what my book is." List credentials if you've been published before. (Credentials = it's printed; you've been paid for it.)

2. Openers for your book—Do NOT start with eating, sleeping, dreaming, flashbacks, anything sedentary or far away from your story. DO start with interest and action.

3. Formatting your manuscript—Follow publishers guidelines. Use MS Word; do not use WordPerfect.

4. Proofread—Make sure your manuscript is your best work. Have it proofed.

5. Dialogue—Don't use heavy tags (ex: "Don't go into the woods," she whispered breathlessly.) Avoid dialogue tags when you can. Give each character their own voice, so they could be recognized without the dialog tag.

6. Be fresh—Give us a twist on the setting, plot, etc.

7. Characters—Avoid polar characters who are all good or all bad. Give them unique voices. Give them unique names; don't have them all start with the same letter.

8. Conflict—You need meaningful conflict that moves you toward your end goal.

9. Writing Style—Watch for your pet words and phrases. (Ex: actually, suddenly, however.) Use sensory experiences. Show, don't tell. Be consistent in your narrative style.

10. Climax—Your entire story should aim toward the climax and move you that direction in some way.


Storymakers: Tim Travaglini, Putnam Editor

Notes from the 2008 LDStorymakers Conference

Workshop: Getting Out of the Slush Pile
Presenter: Tim Travaglini, Keynote Speaker on Friday
Submitted by: Karlene Browning

There are 10,000 new children's books published each year in the U.S. Here are a few tips for getting out of the slush pile and becoming one of those 10,000.

  • Talent, Training, Perseverance—You need to be strong in two of the three to be successful; and always be working on improving the third area.

  • Collect and be proud of rejections. They are an indication of your perseverance; that you're not giving up. (Kate Dicamillo, author of Because of Winn Dixie got 400 rejections.)

  • Luck—the harder you work, the luckier you get.

  • #1 thing to be a topnotch writer is to read in your genre—lots!

  • Join a writers group. Find one that you like with good support and honest feedback

  • Take classes and read books on writing.

  • Dont be afraid to revise. "Your words are not gold." (Richard Peck goes through his finished manuscript and deletes his favorite sentence because he knows if he can cut that, he can do what needs to be done for the good of the story.)

  • Know who you're submitting to; who you should be submitting to. Consider submitting to a junior editor. They are hungry and eager.

  • Attend writers conferences where editors and agents are presenting. Any agent or editor who attends that conference is "fair game" for submission. Include mention of the writers conference in your query/cover letter.

Blog Business

I've been getting several spam comments posted lately, some with viruses attached. Most of them I've caught within minutes of them posting, but some I haven't.

Although I hate to do this because it's so annoying, I've turned on the Word Verification feature for commenting. Hopefully that will do the trick.


March 2008 Comment Contest Winners

Here are the winners of the March Comment Contest, randomly selected from comments made during the month of March.

Thanks again to our sponsors. Please take a moment to read their bio info here.

Scotlyn, Knightess of the Dragon

by Deirdra Eden Coppel

Winner: Janet Kay Jensen

Commenting on Branded for Life

Don't You Marry the Mormon Boys

by Janet Kay Jensen

Winner: Stephanie Black

Commenting on Is LDS Fiction a Genre?

On the Road to Heaven

by Coke Newell

Winner: Kent Larsen

Commenting on Poetry—A Devalued Art Form

To claim your prize, you must e-mail your mailing address to me by Friday, April 4, 2008.

(Unclaimed prizes will be up for grabs on Monday, April 7th.)

Click here to learn how you can win a copy of one of our sponsoring books.

April 2008 Sponsors

Please take a moment to learn more about our wonderfully generous sponsors.

Counting Blessings by Kerry Blair

Spiritual refreshment is only pages away in this down-to-earth collection of inspiring stories and essays. Like a wise and witty friend, Kerry Blair leads you through the rough spots of life by poking gentle fun at herself in such a vivacious way that you'll be smiling at your own foibles. You'll laugh out loud — and occasionally be moved to tears — as you discover some of life's greatest truths hidden within these simple pages. Reclaim your sanity and enrich your soul with this humorous and poignant anthology that celebrates the joy of being alive and shows how greatly each of us is blessed.

Kerry Blair wrote her first novel when she was eight years old and promised herself that she would do it again when she "grew up." She makes her home in West Jordan, Utah, with her husband, Gary, and four children.

Kerry says, "I’d always said I wanted to be an author when I grew up—and forty is pretty darn grown up by anybody’s standards. The Heart Has Its Reasons was released in 1999 and I’ve since published 8 more books (one was a collaboration) and been included in a compilation of inspirational essays for mothers. I’ve edged from LDS romance into romantic mystery into murder mystery with romantic overtones into romantic comedy into the new Nightshade series— books one reviewer said is what you’d expect 'if you watched Buffy join CSI on the Romance Channel.'"

Bound on Earth by Angela Halstrom

It is Thanksgiving Day and the Palmers have gathered to celebrate. But one person is missing: Kyle, Beth Palmer's young husband and a once integral member of this close-knit Mormon family. Kyle’s bipolar disorder has spun out of control, and each family member’s reaction to his disease reveals tensions that have been at work among the Palmers for generations. In the interconnected narratives that follow, the family’s past is revealed, illuminating themes of loyalty, betrayal, forgiveness and, ultimately, love.

"Combining deep emotional candor and spare, elegant prose, Hallstrom's debut novel is a poignant exploration of family, faith, and the ties that bind." —Kathryn Lynard Soper, editor of Segullah: Writings by Latter-Day Saint Women

"Angela Hallstrom demonstrates an admirable mastery of the art of fiction. The subtle background to this novel is the Mormon world view, established without preaching or assumptions of superiority. But it presents a far from idealized vision of reality. By moments the members of this extended family writhe with conflict, tension, depression, self-pity, and misbehavior. If there's a lesson to be learned from this novel, it's that the pain and endurance required to create a family are worth it." —Levi Peterson, author of The Backslider and editor of Dialogue magazine

Angela Hallstrom lives in South Jordan, Utah, with her husband and four children. Her fiction has received awards from the Utah Arts Council and has appeared or is forthcoming in Dialogue, the New Era, Irreantum, and Salt Flats Annual. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Hamline University and has served on the editorial boards of Water-Stone Review, Irreantum, and Segullah. She teaches writing at Salt Lake Community College. Her novel, Bound on Earth, is now available.

Heaven Scent by Rebecca Talley

"She'd wanted her father to pay more attention to her, and she'd wanted her family to be like it used to be. She hadn't wanted everything to change so drastically that she may not even survive it."

As Liza proves herself a basketball star, everyone—from college basketball recruiters to the gorgeous Kyle Reynolds—seems to take note of her. Everyone, that is, except her own father. While her father is busy at his law practice, Liza learns about a strange new religion from Kyle. Could Kyle's religion help her family? Or is it already too late for her father to make amends?

When yet another broken promise finally leads to tragedy, Liza doesn't know if she will ever be able to forgive her father. It will take a good friend, a new belief, and a miracle straight from heaven to help Liza see that she still has a choice. The compelling story of a high school basketball star, this is a novel every girl will want, and none will be able to put down!

Rebecca Talley grew up in Santa Barbara, California and now lives on a ranch in Colorado with her amazing husband, 8 of her 10 creative children, horses, goats, and a llama named Tina. She is the author of a children's picture book, Grasshopper Pie. Her stories have been published in Story Friends, Our Little Friend, The Friend, and Stories for Children. Cedar Fort released her YA novel, Heaven Scent, in spring 2008.

Besides writing, Rebecca enjoys eating chocolate by the pound, dancing to disco music while she cleans all the messes that seem to multiply and replenish her house, and contemplating all the craft projects that still need to be completed. You can find Rebecca at www.rebeccatalley.com.

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