Unfortunately, We Don't Have a Publishing Liahona

I wonder how a publisher can know whether or not a book will sell and how well it will sell. I know that books can badly under sell or wildly exceed expectations. How can anyone know one way or the other? Is it just based on experience with similar novels? How do you predict what the market will do?

I pulled this from the comments trail because it's a really good question.

The short answer is, we don't know. We don't have a publishing Liahona which tells us which manuscripts will sell. It's all a big guess.

The longer answer is, it's a guess based upon experience and gut feeling.

If we've published this genre or author in the past, that gives us some information. How well did the last one sell? Did we sell out? Did we reprint? How many do we have left in the warehouse?

What is the market doing? What are our collegues grumbling about? Did the publisher two booths down at the convention last month offer an 80% discount on books in this genre? That's a sign they're not selling well. But then you have to ask, is the genre slowing down--or are their books junk?

There are so many variables, it's impossible to control for all of them and accurately predict what will and what won't sell. So we have to go by how well we--our staff and our "paid" readers--like the book and how much money is in the bank account and how lucky we feel that day.

I know this sounds glib, but that's the nature of the business. As publisher, you believe you have the ability to determine with a reasonable degree of accuracy what your readers will like. You make your best guess. If you're good at guessing, and you're right more than you're wrong, you stay in business. If you're not good at guessing, you go out of business and find employment elsewhere.

If a company has been publishing for several years, it means they guess right more often than they guess wrong. It means they've found something, be it a gut feeling or a Magic 8 Ball, that works for them and they're not likely to adjust that decision making process until the market forces them to do so.


P&L Rejections

Today I was working on a P&L for a new book, to determine whether to accept it or not. Did you know that we have to do that for every book that makes it through the first read? If the P&L doesn't come out right, I can't accept a title even if I LOVE it.

Here's a brief description of how the P&L works:

First I have to estimate production costs, which include editing, typesetting, design, custom artwork, printing, galleys, marketing covers, promos (business cards, bookmarks, postcards, posters, etc.), advertising and a launch party or book signing tour.

Then I guess how many books I can sell and how fast I can sell them. I come up with an initial print run amount minus comp copies used for marketing. I take that number and times it by the wholesale price of the book. From that amount, I subtract the author's royalty and/or advance and the production costs to get my profit.

I figure profit based on selling all the books, 80% of the books and 60% of the books. Then I look at the 60% number and determine if I can survive if that's all I sell.

Theoretically, if I publish a book a month, and I can sell 60% of the print run in a year, and that number will cover one month of my company's overhead, plus a little, then I can take the risk and publish the book.

Larger companies that are publishing 10+ books a month can handle a little more risk; their faster sellers will offset the slower sellers. Smaller companies that publish less than a book a month cannot afford as much risk. They have to be fairly certain that every book they publish is going to sell, and sell enough to cover several months of overhead--unless they're independently wealthy and publishing is a hobby and not their personal bread and butter.

So if you get a rejection that says something along the lines of "We LOVED your book, but...," chances are it didn't make it past the P&L analysis.


Final Words on Rights

A few more words on contract rights. This may or may not be spelled out in your contract, but the publisher has ALL editing and design rights.

Editing Rights--Your publisher can and will edit your text. Most of the time, these edits won't be huge. They don't have time to do that. If they want big edits, they'll tell you to do it. However, they will shorten sentences, cut paragraphs, and swap out words if they feel they need to do so. You may ask to have final approval on these edits. You may or may not get it.

Design Rights--This refers to cover design and page layout. You have no say in that. They choose the font, the layout, the margin widths, etc. They will hire their own artists to create the cover. You have no say in that either.

Most of the time, what the publisher does is going to increase the marketability of your book. Unless you are a professional graphic artist, they are going to have more experience in creating things that will attract the buyer. Trust them.

If they make a huge mistake and you can point out a legitimate marketing reason for changing the cover (for example, your main character is 45, but is portrayed as a 20 year old on the cover), they might listen to you and make changes. Or they might not. There's not a lot you can do about it.

If you have really strong opinions on editing and design, and this is a deal breaker for you, you may be able to have final approval to both added to your contract. Just know, that this may also be a deal breaker for the publisher too.


Follow the Guidelines for Follow-Ups

Hi LDSPublisher,

After a publisher has had a manuscript for a long period of time, what is the best way to check on the status of the manuscript? Is it acceptable to email the publisher if an email address is available? Is it best to send a letter by snail mail? Or, is it best to call and ask about the status?

Thank you.

Do whichever it says in their submission guidelines.

If their submission guidelines do not address when and how to contact them after your manuscript has been submitted, then I would use e-mail if an address is available. That gives them the ability to respond at their convenience.

Second choice is a note, but include your e-mail address so that they may respond to you quickly, easily and at no cost to them.

Last choice is a phone call. I don't like it when someone calls to check up on a manuscript that I've had for a "long period of time" because I'm already feeling guilty that I've made them wait. Most often, the reason I'm late is because I've been unusually busy. Then if they call when I'm already out of my mind with overworkedness, I'm distracted, I get flustered and I can't find their manuscript in my pile of stuff, and ... Avoiding this real-time conversation is the reason e-mail was invented, wasn't it?


Read Any LDS Chick Lit Lately?

In one of your critiques, you mentioned Chick Lit. Can you talk a little more about this? Are there any LDS authors doing this type of fiction? Is it currently selling?

Chick lit refers to books specifically written for women, generally dealing with a twenty- or thirty-something woman who is trying to find her place in the world. Sometimes there's a traumatic event triggering the response that creates the story (as in paragraph 20), but more often they are light-hearted, often first person, with a sort of sassy, humorous or conversational tone (as in paragraph 19). Some definitions consider it to be a romance sub-genre; others broaden it to include books where romance is the secondary plot line.

Kristen Nelson is a national literary agent who represents chick lit. (This links to her chick lit titles.) You can get a good sense of this genre just by reading the titles and looking at the covers of her books.

On the national market, chick lit often includes scenes and themes that might be considered--uhmmm, how do I say this politely--uncomfortably provocative for LDS readers. In many publishing houses, this sensuality is part of the definition of chick lit. Obviously, that wouldn't be the case in the LDS market.

On the national market, this genre is declining somewhat. Publishers aren't accepting as much of it, probably due to a glut on the market. But I would expect it to continue as a recognized genre for quite some time.

As for the LDS market, I think there's a place for women's novels that use a breezy, fun chick lit tone. I don't read a lot in this area, so I can't give a definitive answer as to who might already be writing in that genre. Although I haven't read them yet, just based on their descriptions and what I've heard people say about them, Josie Kilpack's Tempest Tossed and some of Rachel Nunes' novels might fall into this category.

Readers, can you give us some examples of LDS chick lit?


Trivia Provides Marketing Hooks

This is National Be Kind to Editors and Writers Month. I am not kidding. I’m just ticked that I didn’t know about it on day one, because I would have milked this for all it’s worth. Tomorrow morning I’m going to show up at work and if there aren’t flowers and a huge box of chocolates on my desk, someone is going to get an earful!

(Okay, I don’t really expect flowers and chocolates. And I won’t even be working in the office tomorrow. But it would be nice to hear from some of my authors this month, thanking me for the hard work I’ve done/am doing in their behalf. It’s always nice to be appreciated.)

(That was a thinly veiled hint for all you published authors out there to send a card or e-mail to your editor! Doesn’t have to be a big deal. This is one of those things where the sentiment is more important than the delivery.)

But back to my topic. Although in most cases I think these national days, weeks and months are rather silly, they do provide marketing hooks for your books. If you are a published author—or about to be published—or even wanting to be published, check out the various national celebrations. Which ones would provide a marketing hook for your message?

For example, if you have a non-fiction self-improvement book, September is Self-Improvement Month. If you have a parenting book, October is Commune with Your Kid Month.

Does your murder mystery have someone dying from licking poisonous stamps? January is National Stamp Collector’s Month. Is your main character an eccentric little old lady who likes to snoop on her neighbors and wears garishly decorated straw hats? April is Straw Hat Month.

Okay, some of these are lame. But you get the idea.

Assignment for today: Google national celebrations. (I'm not providing links because I want you to hone your research skills.) Find three national celebrations that you could use as an excuse to showcase your book and post them in the comments trail. Then let your publisher know. Or if you’re still submitting and the publisher asks for marketing ideas, well, here you go.

BTW, does anyone know when the National Post Trivia on Your Blog Site Day is?


Contest Critiques Done

All contest paragraphs now have my comments and critiques posted.



I'm starting the paragraph critiques. I will not be doing rewrites. The comments I make are what I'd put in the margin notes if I received this as a submission. I will be frank and pull no punches. I will also tell you if I would ask for more, based upon this paragraph submission. My intent is to show you where you need to strengthen your writing so that it's ready for publication. In my opinion.

To get to some of the earlier submissions, click on the September archive link and it will show them all.


Message to Contest Submitters

Something went berserk in my Excel file where I was tracking who was attached to each paragraph. (It happened this morning, long after I posted winners.)

I no longer have a list telling me who wrote which paragraph. So if you want to claim your own, post your name in the comments trail and I will move it up into the body of your paragraph post.


Paragraph Critiques

Dear LDSP,

Are those paragraph rewrites in the comments trail from you? If so, why did you post them anonymously?

No. Those are not me. I've received permission from most of the contest submitters to do a critique of their paragraph and I will be doing that over the next several days. My critiques will be posted within and at the end of the actual paragraphs, not in the comments trail. And they will be in red.

A Teaching Moment

I cut this from the comments trail and posted it here because it's the perfect set-up for a teaching moment. This is a great example of why good writing sometimes gets rejected.

The poetry in this paragraph is excellent, however it lessens the effect the story could have. And keeping the identity of "the man" from the reader until the end of the paragraph has the effect of annoying the reader rather than drawing the reader into intrigue and mystery of the scene. ...

The poetry in this paragraph ...are all very fine descriptive details, but they have the effect of notifying the reader that the author is hard at work selecting poetic verse to add emotion to the scene. However, Eli Slater would never select those words if he were telling this story...we never get to see this scene through Eli's eyes.

...in addition to the poetic verse removing the character from the scene and repalcing him with the author, it also has the effect of weakening the impact of the scene through repeition. A single
metaphor or a poetic word choice discretely placed among the forward thrust of the story may not weaken the lines too much, but more than once and the author becomes the viewpoint character....

...Edit out all of the poetry and replace it with thoughts and descriptions that Eli would see and feel. Then Eli gets to tell us the story from his point of view without so much author instrusion. Something like:

Eli Slater clung to the top of a telegraph pole with one hand and held the pocket key with the other. The icy wind cut through his officer's coach like a dagger between his shoulder blades, but there was no one to stop him from sending the message. None of the other officers dared venture out into cold night. He tapped out LINCOLN IN ROUTE and it was done. The eight assassins were on their way and there was no one to warn the president. He reached for the wire cutters in his pocket. At least no one from this part of the growing confederacy. Eli cut the wire.

Here we have two different treatments (blue above and original) of the same story. Neither is "wrong." Which has a better chance of being accepted for publication? It depends on which editor/publisher is reading it.

Personally, I like the original better. It has a depth and richness that I love to read. I wasn't distracted by the language, or by not knowin the characters identity. For me, it added suspense and an intense desire to read more. When I get a submission with writing like this, it gets read all the way through--regardless of whether I'm looking for that genre or not.

If I got the blue paragraph, I would read until I determined if it was something that would fit with my product line. I might read it all the way through, or I might not, depending on the rest of the story.

But here's the teaching moment: My colleague over at XYZ Publishing hates flowery exposition. They want fast and to the point. At their house, the blue paragraph would have the advantage.

The trick is matching your writing style with a publishing house that will appreciate it.

How do you know what style an editor/publisher prefers? Look at what they've published in the past. Read the acknowledgments in a book that is similar in writing style to yours. If they list an editor by name, that's who you want to address your manuscript to.


Winners: Publisher's Choice

I was so pleased with the number of entries in this contest and with the interest level that they all piqued, both in myself and in the voters. There were quite a few paragraphs that I’d be interested in reading more of. My thanks to everyone who was brave enough to enter this contest. Bravo!

After days of conflicting thoughts and feelings, I settled on the three for which I would definitely request to see a full manuscript. But then it got really hard. First place and the two runners-up were so close that I went round and round with all three of them, trying to decide which one should be in which place. However, I finally settled on the which and why.

Therefore (drum roll please)

First Place: T. Lynn with Paragraph #13

This paragraph has such a strong sense of place. I don’t think anyone has done a better job of putting me into a scene so quickly. I am right there up on that pole with Slater. I know exactly where I am in history. The foreshadowing of the fury and the cold and the evil of the war is clear in the choice of descriptors. The only thing I can find to critique is this sentence: If Abraham Lincoln lived or died tonight, he wouldn’t hear about it over these lines. It’s a little awkward, but not so much that it popped me out of the scene. If T. Lynn can do dialogue and plot as well as she does the imagery in this paragraph, then this is a book I want to read. If I received this as part of a query, would I ask for a partial? No. I’d ask for the whole thing! Now, please.

First Runner-Up: Jeff Savage with Paragraph #22

Another really great sense of place, where I was right there with Kinion—holding my breath the whole time. I liked the counting down of the minutes. It added to the tension. So why did this get first runner up? Because I’m not certain what genre it is. I’m thinking it’s not a straightforward historical fiction. So either great latitude is being taken with history; or it’s an entirely different story with an entirely different set of gold plates and our LDS antennae are being toyed with; or we’re going to see a parallel history, similar to what Orson Scott Card did in the Alvin Maker series. Whichever, I’d like to read the rest.

Second Runner Up: W.L. Elliott with Paragraph #14
I loved this! We are right there with those flying ponies. That’s a cute idea. The dragon as guard dog has been done before, but this one has a unique humor to it. This paragraph was neck and neck for first runner-up. It barely missed because it really should be three paragraphs—but I’m glad she sacrificed her shot at first place and gave us the extra info. This is another one where I’d ask to see the whole manuscript based on just this much.

Winners: Readers Choice

First Place:
Suzanne Reese
with Paragraph #20 (8 votes)

Runners-Up: (5 votes each)
Melanie Goldmund
with Paragraph #3


with Paragraph #12


Reading for Fun--But Not Much Profit

I've heard that some publishing companies hire people (paying them in books) to read manuscripts and give their opinions of the books. Is this true? If so, how do I get hired doing this?

Yes, many publishing companies do this. I'm not sure how you go about getting hired to do this. You can always call them up and ask, but I'm not sure if that will help much. This is probably one of those things where you have to know someone--or rather, they have to know you. In my company, these positions are offered by me, after I've known someone for awhile and we've discussed various books a lot, and I know that I can trust their assessment of a book.

If you really want to do this, but you don't have the personal connections, you might offer to read a few on spec, so they can see if you're a good match for their company.

Habits and/or Skills that would impress me:
Read a lot of books--I'm talking 80 to 100 per year, year after year; you need to be able to recognize current trends and when something has been done to death

Read in a lot of genres--know the various conventions used, needed, expected in each genre; be able to talk/write about them intelligently

Basic grammar/editing skills--you need to recognize when something is written properly and when it is not; whether it needs only light editing or heavy editing

Basic writing skills--you need to be able to recognize certain writing styles, techniques, and discuss them using correct terminology (ex: POV, etc.); you also need to be able to clearly express what worked in a book, and what didn't, and why

Picky, picky, picky--If you read a lot of books, and you like most of them, you're probably not discriminating enough. On the other hand, if you hate everything you read, that's probably not going to work either.

Submissions Closed for Contest

Submissions are now closed for the Opening Paragraph Contest.

Voting is allowed until midnight (Mountain Time) on Monday, September 11, 2006.

Two BIG Questions for Paragraph Submitters

1. Why are there still submissions with ZERO votes?
I don't get that. You're allowed (and expected by me, at least) to vote for your own paragraph. If you don't believe in your work enough to vote for it, why should anyone else? I'm off to work for several hours now, but when I come back and check this afternoon, I expect to find at least one vote for every single submission.

And, have you told your friends and relatives to come here and vote? If you want honest feedback, you probably don't want to tell your mother/spouse/children which one is yours. But at least send them to the site to vote!

(If you get published, you need to help spread the word and the buzz about your book. This will be good practice for you.)

2. May I post comments about your paragraph?
I had fully intended to post comments about what I thought you did well and where I thought you needed improvement--after the contest ended. When someone asked me if I would do that, I went back and checked my contest post and realized I had forgotten to mention that. Ooops.

So, if you want comments about your paragraph, you will need to e-mail me and give me permission to do that. Otherwise, since I didn't warn you in advance, I will not give you a critique.

Also, a clarification: I will only post the names of the paragraph winners (unless you requested otherwise). If you would like public credit for your paragraph, even if you did not win the contest, let me know. I will not post your name unless you tell me I may do so.

Opening Paragraph #22

Eight. Kinion counted the minutes silently. He knew he was in the right place. Knew to the second what was coming. Yet his heart pounded like a jacketed fist against the inside of his ribs. Seven. The icy wind danced and surged, slapping cold sheets of rain against his exposed face and neck. Six. A branch cracked in the darkness and he froze, scarcely breathing as the tall man appeared like a wrath through the trees. His height and broad shoulders were unmistakable Five. The man leaned, as if carrying a heavy weight, glanced about, and set a bundle on the damp ground. Four. It was impossible to see what was happening, but Kinion knew anyway. He’d scouted the log with the hidden compartment carved into it earlier in the day. Three. The man straightened, cocked his head, listening, and stepped back. Two. This was it, he was watching history, but soon he’d be making it. One. For a split second Kinion was sure the man had sensed his presence—it wouldn’t have surprised him in the least—but no, he checked the log one final time and disappeared into the night. Crouching low, Kenion scuttled through the woods, pulled back the bark cover and grabbed the sack. The gold plates were his.

See comments here.


Opening Paragraph #21

Susan gripped the sides of the porcelain vanity sink and tried to control the terror raging inside her. She slowly counted as she breathed in through her nose, out through her mouth. After five counts, she slowly (slowly/slowly--lose one) looked forward to see herself in the mirror. She saw despair. Despair is something I can work with, she thought, but not terror. She gazed into her own hazel eyes, wanting to see something there to give her hope. (New paragraph) Finally, she put her cooled hands on her cheeks to leech the warmth that had blossomed there. (This part is strong. From here out, it gets weaker.)

She tried to remember what had brought the panic attack on. She had just stepped out of the shower, toweled dry and started to take care of her sandy blonde hair when she saw herself in the steamed mirror. She realized at that moment that she wasn't getting ready for work, but for a date. (delete all this) This was her first one (date) since she had moved to this town six months ago. Then she downed a cocktail of self-doubt, self-pity and insecurity, which left her in a state ripe for panic. (needs transition) Had she known how the night would end, the horror would have utterly consumed her. (strong ending to this, but it needs a smoother transition)

Critique: The first description of her looking in the mirror is one of the few instances where that convention works. The rule is: never have your character look in a mirror as an excuse to describe their physical appearance. But this works--until you start actually describing her normal physical appearance.

Would I ask for more? Depends on the strength of query and synopsis. Based on this, probably not until after rewrites. But then I'd be willing to look at it again.

Opening Paragraph #20

Paige sat as far away as possible from the driver of the spiffy (no--if she's in that much trauma, she'd hardly reference the car as "spiffy"--and neither should the author. It minimizes what's coming next.), new mustang she’d just spent a horrifying hour in. Both hands gripped the door handle in anticipation, and as the car approached her house, she opened the car door and watched the blur of gravel below her. As soon as the car slowed enough that she was reasonably sure she wouldn’t break her neck, she stumbled out of the prison. She scuffled to her front door, her quivering hands holding tight to her belly in an effort to keep the pain and nausea at bay. She picked up her pace when she heard footsteps behind her. The boy came up beside her and walked nonchalantly, as if this was just any normal date on any normal Saturday night. As if. (new paragraph) “I had a nice time,” he said, casually, rubbing his hands together. (new paragraph) Paige gasped and pushed hard on the door. She didn’t use the kind of language that comment deserved. He reached out and grabbed her arm. She stiffened, frozen with fear. (new paragraph) “Can I call you?” She yanked her arm out of his grasp, stepped inside, and slammed the door, wincing at the possibility that her parents might have heard.

Critique: Another one that made the first cut. It didn't make the finals because I got mixed signals. My first thought is, she's been raped. But then there was the confusing and trivializing first sentence (spiffy). Also lost points because it's several paragraphs. This could be good, or it could be same old girl-recovers-from-trauma-all-men-are-scum book. I need to know more.

Would I ask for more? Yes. Depending on the query and synopsis, I'd probably ask for a full.

Opening Paragraph #19

The glowing numbers on the clock proclaimed I had been awake for three hours now. Three hours that I had laid in bed (grammar), wishing sleep would come-willing to count every sheep in the shed if it would help. (cute end to sentence) Nada. Nothing. (new paragraph) I hated laying there staring at the ceiling and feeling guilty that I wasn’t asleep. Why guilty? Was there some law that said I had to be asleep at some predetermined time? I guess it was mostly because (passive voice) my mother had drilled that idea into my brain: if you weren’t sleeping during the night, you were up to no good. Along with that, I always knew I would feel tired in the morning and wish I had slept. But it never helped. At least it didn’t tonight. (new paragraph) I groaned and rolled over, burying my head under my pillow, trying to block out the numbers which seemed to imprint themselves on my closed eyelids. This latest bout of insomnia was due no doubt to the anxiety I felt over moving. It was my least favorite occupation --moving. Let alone the choice I had made this time. It was one thing to move from one apartment to another, but to move from one state to another was a whole different ball game.

Critique: Needs tightening. Too passive. Too meandering. Like the last paragraph, not being able to sleep and mother issues are both universal problems that could be built upon. But where are we going with this? What type of book is this? I'm not getting enough information yet.

Would I ask for more? No.

Note to everyone: These last two paragraphs are examples of good "chick-lit" ideas that haven't taken off yet. They are first draft level writing that need a lot of work. But, they have potential because we can recognize ourselves in them. When you speak to feelings and issues that most of us have had, you have the beginnings of something that could have wide appeal. If you build in some uniqueness, let us into the speaker's minds and hearts, then you might have something.

Opening Paragraph #18

Home. The images that word invoked swirled through my mind, making me to stop and steady myself before continuing on. (grammar) It was just a glimpse of the house through the neighboring trees, standing as it had stood through the past forty years--withstanding (standing/withstanding--change one) snow and rain, heat and discord. (new paragraph) It had gone through a number of face lifts, the latest being a mixture of brick and stucco. I’m not sure I even care about the outward appearance, it had always just been a house to me. It was what happened inside that mattered—that always haunted me. Its siren voice called to me every Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. It called to me during summer reunions and family get togethers, which were getting fewer and fewer with the years. It called to me even stronger now that I had purposefully avoided all of those activities for the past eight years. (delete these) (new paragraph) Eight long years that I had sought purpose and meaning to the life I had chosen. Only to find that it had been here all along. Here with my family and their unconditional love and open arms. At least, I hoped there were open arms. I wasn’t sure how they were going to feel about my showing up for Thanksgiving so unexpectedly. This unannounced visit--after ignoring all invitations for so long that they had become almost non-existent. But I hadn’t been able to pick up the phone. Every time I tried, my hand would freeze, hovering over it and I would end up pulling it back to gaze with fascinated dread at the machine.

Critique: This has some problems. Mostly structural. You meander too much. The idea of coming home again, dealing with the past, is universal--so that's a good idea to write about. Need to tighten it up a lot. Get us out of her head and build up a little more sensory experiences.

Would I ask for more? Not at this point.

Opening Paragraph #17

Victor looked with trepidation at the blood spot in the snow. He knew from the pain in his side that his crampons had stabbed him when he fell, but the blood confirmed what he already knew. (tighten the sentence) His instincts told him (how? why?) that he was in danger. (of what?) Getting off the mountain was vital (why?) but with the pain in his wrist (what's wrong with his wrist?) and the blood, he felt he might not make it.(why not?) It had taken all his strength to get this far and he wondered where he could get more energy. He ate his last candy bar an hour ago and the energy boost was helpful (very weak ending)

Critique: Although you've shown us blood, you've told us everything else. It needs more punch, more sense of place. I need a reason to care about this guy--other than the generic "poor anonymous man is going to die...". I am not emotionally tied to this guy.

Would I ask for more? No.

Opening Paragraph #16

Almost as Billy finished pounding on it, the door opened with a jerk. (sentence structure) What Billy saw inside the house made his heart sink. (Don't tell me. Show me what is happening, what he is seeing, how his body is reacting) In an instant (cliche) he saw a man crouched against an opposite wall, the man (a man/the man--repetitive) was pointing a weapon (what? how did he know it was a weapon?) at the open doorway. Billy shouted, “he's got a gun” and lunged away from the doorway. (usually you lunge toward something, not away from it; also, who's he shouting to? are there people with him?) When he (who?) dove for cover, (awkward) He crashed through the wooden porch handrail and he was unconscious before he landed in the bushes.

Critique: Need to tighten up your writing. You have some basic grammatical and punctuation errors here. You've told us everything. Show us.

Would I ask for more? No.

Opening Paragraph #15

“What do you mean you’re going to California?” asked Mary Ann. Jack didn’t know what to do. He knew his family would starve during the winter if he didn’t do something. He searched for a solution but the only thing that he could think of was selling out. He knew he had failed, and he didn’t feel worthy of his wife. He began to believe all the things that his father in law had said about him. Finally, Jack settled on a plan. (plan for what? to leave his wife? to prove his father-in-law wrong? to rob a bank?)

Critique: I can't tell what this story is--a romance? a mystery? a life-as-it-is literary piece? There's not enough here to differentiate it from all the other stories of discontented families. Also, it's all telling. You need to show us something.

Would I ask for more? No.

Deadline Approaching

Contest Deadline:
Tonight, Friday, September 8
12:00 Midnight (Mountain)

All entries must have a time stamp at midnight or before.

I will post the last of the entries Saturday morning (I am not staying up till midnight to do it.)

Voting will continue through Monday, Sept. 11 at midnight


Opening Paragraph #14

"You rotten little beasties!" Petal yelled, wielding her broom as a knight might swing a weapon. "Get out of my garden!" She hurried toward her garden patch, swinging the broom with vigor, but before she could get anywhere near them, the miniature ponies, each with a single horn and a pair of feathery wings, dashed into the air like a flock of multicolor magpies. "Oh, just look at the mess they've made!" she huffed, throwing the broom down in frustration and standing in the middle of her garden with hands on hips. The unicorns, who had settled in the nearby branches, scolded from afar. When they saw that she was not about to leave until they did, they flew away to find greener pastures, or even better, greener gardens. Petal watched them go, staying put until she was convinced they were gone, then picked up her broom and started back to the cabin. "Fat lot of good YOU are, Falco!" she bellowed at her pet, who lay nearby on the thatched roof of the house. "I should have got a dog instead!" Falco, looking much like a large lizard, lay sunning himself, wings outspread to catch the afternoon sun. The dragon merely blinked once, yawned lazily, turned his head and went back to sleep. "I give up," Petal muttered, perturbed, "I really do."

See comments here.


What to Buy? What to Buy?

Dear LDS Publisher,

How do bookstores in the LDS market decide which titles to stock? What criteria do they use in deciding to order many copies of one title, just a few of another title and none at all of a third? How do they decide whether or not to reorder a title once it sells out? How do they make the decision as to what to display most prominently in their stores? In the case of the bigger chains, are these decisions up to the individual stores, or do ordering decisions come from the top? Thank you for your help. I love your blog.

A Naive Newbie

How do the bookstores make their ordering decisions? On the first night of the new moon, they meet at midnight in a secret clearing in the midde of the forest where they bury the latest copies of Deseret Book's catalog and Books 'n Things. Then on the night of the full moon, they go back and dig them up, give them a shake and order the books with pictures that aren't smudged by the mud and dirt.

Working in a bookstore is the one job in this industry that I have never done. And it's probably a good thing because I'd spend my entire salary on books and my family and I would be living in a cardboard box under the freeway.

However, based upon what they tell me when I call them up to beg for orders, it seems the bookstores make these decisions for several reasons:

1. Selling history. Certain authors and genres are pretty much guaranteed to sell well. They order more of those.

2. Current trends. If they see a trend developing, they'll order to support that trend.

3. Promotions. If a book is promoted well by the publisher, they'll buy it. For example, most bookstores will try to stock books that are being advertised in DB and BT.

4. Personal taste. If a book speaks to the buyer on a personal level, or one of their trusted employees, they will buy the book.

5. Bribery. If the publisher is offering a deeper discount, they will sometimes take a chance on a book.

Choice of what to display is based upon these same criteria. Also tie-ins to holidays or local events.

They will reorder a particular title as long as customers are walking into the store asking for it. Usually. Sometimes they intend to reorder and they forget. That's where a good distributor comes in--to make calls to remind them to reorder.

As for the chains, as far as I know, it's up to the individual stores. DB stores place their orders with the main office, which places the total order with us. We ship to their warehouse and they disperse them between the stores. If a title isn't in DBs database, then the individual stores usually do not order it--although on occasion, they will make an exception for a well-promoted local book.

Opening Paragraph #13

[Editorial Note: Since the comments trail on this post has turned into a conversation on whether or not the Confederacy existed at this point in time, rather than about the paragraph and its other literary merits, I am making the executive decision to delete the man's title from the paragraph. For more details, see my post in the comments trail. Please disregard the deleted rank title when judging this post.]

In the black winter night, a man clung to the top of a telegraph pole while around him icy winds blew. Skeletal tree branches popped and swayed in the storm. Angry gusts grabbed at the tails of his woolen overcoat, cracking them in the darkness with the sound of a bullwhacker's whip. The man tested the abyss for signs of approaching humans but there were none--for none dared to enter the swirling, black eddy of nature's wrath. Tonight, he knew, Satan was awake and pushing open his mighty doors. Working a pocket key under the wire the man took a deep breath, then tapped out the message. "Lincoln en route. Assassins waiting." Once, twice, three times he sent the encrypted message while the wind howled its protest. Would the eight assigned men succeed in killing the gangly president-elect? If Abraham Lincoln lived or died tonight, he wouldn’t hear about it over these lines. Removing a pair of wire cutters, [deleted rank title] Eli Slater leaned out into the darkness as far as he could, clipped the wires and climbed down the pole into war's coming fury.

See comments here.

Opening Paragraph #12

Arturo crouched in the dark sewer tunnel, wet to the skin and wondering, for the hundredth time, whether he was doing the right thing. The smell was overpowering, an unrelenting combination of sewage and decomposing fish, (I agree with the comment that asked why the sewer would smell like fish? I've never been in a sewer, so maybe I'm missing something...?) which literally brought tears to his eyes. In one hand he held a picture of his wife and two young daughters, taken last Christmas. His other hand drifted to his side, unconsciously feeling for the tumor that he knew was there. (New paragraph) Grimacing in pain, he (Arturo) readjusted (adujsted) the backpack on his shoulders and gathered himself. He knew what he was doing was wrong. This was insane. The five cellophane-wrapped bundles of marijuana on his back could not save him and his family. But he didn't know what else to do. He thought about turning back. On one side of the tunnel was Mexico, his home. The other side of the tunnel was the United States, jail and free surgery. (New paragraph) "It won't be too bad", he tried to convince himself. "I'll be home in a year." (You only get one year for drug smuggling and illegal immigration? And how does he know he'll go to jail, and not simply be deported?) He sat motionless, poised between two futures. With his heart hammering in his chest, he said a final silent prayer, not expecting an answer.

Critique: Now that's interesting--I knew people immigrated to the US for health care, but I didn't realize they'd try to get arrested so they could have surgery. Good sense of place. Strong sensory cues. I'm curious as to where it goes from here.

Would I ask for more? Depends on the genre. If it was suspense, maybe. If it was a conversion story, no.

Opening Paragraph #11

Maybe, if I had known from the beginning Samantha was a ghost, I never would have entered the house on Amaranth Lane. (Good) But if I had not gone into the house I would never have experienced the next part of my life which, for now, involves telling Samatha’s story.(Weak) Sure, I know some will never want to hear it, ghosts frighten most people.(Weak) They don’t want anything to do with their dead. That’s why they bury them and walk away from the cemetery. (Strong) I was even told once it’s not natural to live with a ghost in your house. But now, after meeting Samatha, I think maybe it’s not natural to live in a ghostless house. (Good concept; rewrite the sentences)

(End your paragraph here and delete everything after this. You're telling us too much. Let it come out more slowly. Don't tell us what this story is going to teach us. Show us as it evolves.) So I’m going to share her story--not because it’s about a six-year-old girl who died before she wanted to, but because it’s a story about all of us who never quite know how to live while we have time. Samatha taught me that. She taught me a lot of things, including how close we really are to the dead yet we’re too frightened to open our eyes and see them. Most of all, she taught me how death can make you feel...alive.

Critique: Intriguing idea. Writing needs to be tightened up.

Would I ask for more? I'd tell you to rewrite and resubmit.

Opening Paragraph #10

At one o’clock in the morning, Nicole Madison sped toward Park City, squinted at the yellow lines dotting the middle of the road, and tried to stay to the right of them. They kept disappearing. Hmm. Okay. It was entirely possible that she was drunk. She widened her eyes and tried to concentrate on those lines. If she could just get home, she’d go to bed and stay there as long as possible. Before she started feeling sorry for herself. Again.

Critique: I liked this one. It made the first cut. The reason it didn't make it to the finals is I felt just a little distant from Nicole and her situation. It didn't pull me in, but allowed me to stay at arm's length.

Would I ask for more? Depending on the strength of the rest of the submission, I'd probably ask for a partial.

Opening Paragraph #9

“Shut up and go to sleep,” said one of the boys as they passed by. (Why would they tell her to go to sleep? That seems out of place.) She looked like a cornered animal, ready to strike out at anything that came close to her. Denise noticed the girl because she had shared a class with her in high school. Denise thought her name was Amy. (New paragraph) Crouched on the ground with her back against a large stone, Amy had beads of sweat on her forehead. Her hair was matted and dirty, like she had been rolling in the dirt. She was crying and clutching her jacket as if it were her lifeline. (was she wearing the jacket or just holding it?) Her eyes were wide open, she was frightened by something Denise couldn’t see (sentence structure). Feeling sorry for Amy, Denise kneeled down next her to try and help. Amy turned and glared at Denise as if she were waiting for an attack. Denise carefully stretched out her arm and touched Amy’s cheek to wipe away a tear. The action was met with a shriek and a backward lunge that caused Amy to bang her head on the rock.

Critique: Watch your grammar and sentence structure. This is a little choppy. You jump from the boys, to Denise, to Amy, back to Denise, back to Amy. It didn't feel smooth to me. You might consider changing to a first person POV with Denise. ??

Would I ask for more? No. It just didn't speak to me. Sorry.

Opening Paragraph #8

The young man woke with a start (cliche) and lay tense, listening, wondering what had roused him. Everything was quiet. The third story windows (where? in his room?) were closed against the chill autumn air, against the snow flurries predicted by the nurses, effectively shutting out sound. He studied the darkness beyond the lace curtains. But even if (don't start a sentence with "but even if") the panes were open he doubted he’d hear any noise since the hospital was perched on the mountain and so far from the red light district. (awkward sentence) Decent folk living nearby were tucked into bed at this hour. (Good, this tells us a lot.) He relaxed and moved his head slowly, very slowly, toward the new-fangled electric light spilling up the stairs. (huh? what stairs?) He was glad for the light. Working the silver mines by day meant he’d spent most of his life in darkness. Had his dreams wakened him? He couldn’t remember. How was he supposed to remember dreams of the dark?

Critique: Tighten up your sentence structure. Give us more intensity. Intriguing last sentence.

Would I ask for more? Probably not. Needs to be tighter. Needs to have a stronger hook.

Opening Paragraph #7

“Do not pass go. Do not collect two hundred dollars.” Typing furiously, James Ralston smiled at his computer screen and continued whispering to himself. “Someone is going to jail, and someone else is finally going to get some recognition around here.” Maybe.

Critique: Hmm. There's nothing wrong with this. It's just too short. There is not enough information here to generate an opinion. While it may be fine as the first paragraph of a full chapter, the length is a definite disadvantage for this contest.

Would I ask for more? Depends on the strength of the query, synopsis and the other paragraphs sent with it.

Opening Paragraph #6

Kylee pulled her knees tighter into her chest and tightened the grip of her arms around them. The cold of the cement she sat on was creeping through her worn jeans, chilling her flesh. How had she gotten herself into this mess? What was she going to do now? (Move these questions...) Cold was seeping through the worn-out tennis shoes as well. Her socks had too many holes in them to hold any of it (define "it") out. (...here.) (New paragraph) A snow began to fall, gently drifting (be more descriptive; "gently drifting" tells us. Use the senses to show us) onto her hunched shoulders. A car pulled into the parking lot (what parking lot? tie it back to Kylee; also, if the doesn't stop because of her, it should just pass on by), its headlights playing across the side of Kylee's bent head. Kylee didn't notice it. She remained in her hunched position, shivering. Where could she go? She had nothing anymore. Her car had broken down finally on the freeway several miles away and she had managed to walk this far but could go no further. This rest stop, somewhere outside of Flagstaff, Arizona, was her last stop (stop/stop--delete one).

Critique: You start well, but then it weakens. The last sentence is okay, but could be much more powerful. The paragraph does start me asking questions--What's going on with the car? Who's in it? Why is she running away? --and that's good, but it's not strong enough to keep me asking them.

Would I ask for more? Depends on the query and synopsis that came with this paragraph. How old is she? That would be key for me. If I was having a patient day and the Q & S were good, yes, I might ask for more. But if I had a whole stack of submissions to get through and it was already a frustrating day, no I might not.


Subsidiary Rights

I bet you thought I forgot I was commenting on contracts. No. I was just putting it off as long as I could because it's boring to write about.

Subsidiary rights are the the rights to use/sell the work in a format other than standard print form. They can include:
  • audio books (may be covered in geographical rights)
  • foreign language or sales (may be covered in geographical rights)
  • serialization (newspaper, magazine)
  • digests or abridgments
  • anthology or other collections
  • licensing into greeting cards, coloring books, characters, dolls, stuffed animals, t-shirts, lunch boxes, etc.
  • movies, video games, board games
  • special editions for book clubs, Braille, etc.

New subsidiary rights are popping up all the time. Your publisher will probably list as many as they can think of in the initial contract offer. The reason being, they want to control the quality of all products that will be associated with your book, and also because they want to make more money. Nothing wrong with either of those.

Whether or not you let them have these rights as part of the regular contract is up to you. Some publishers absolutely want all of them. Others will negotiate. Some won't ask for any.

What you need to look at in considering which subsidiary rights you allow them to have is:
1. How likely are they to exercise those rights?
2. How likely would it be that anyone else would want to buy these rights?

If your publisher is unlikely to option these rights themselves, you might want to keep them. Or if you don't care about certain rights, go ahead and give them up. You're not likely to get a better deal (as in, more money) by doing this, but your publisher may have contacts that would be difficult for you to make, and they might be able to sell the options on those rights.

If you do let your publisher have subsidiary rights, make sure your contract includes what and how and when you will be paid if they exercise and/or sell those rights. If they exercise those rights themselves, they will be covered by some sort of royalty payment. If they sell the rights to a third party, the proceeds are usually split on a percentage basis after expenses. I've seen everything from 80 publisher/20 author (which I would never agree to, if I were the author) to 50/50 (which is much more common).

Opening Paragraph #5

Julia licked a mouthful of cream cheese off a toasted bagel as she read the front page of the Salt Lake Tribune. A Brachman’s bagel with extra cream cheese was what she thought about at five o’clock each morning as her alarm blared. It’s what compelled her to get out of bed and hurry into the solitary law office where she read the newspaper and watched the early morning news as she waited for her co-workers to slowly make their entrances. (This whole section slows down the story line. The information it gives us is misplaced because we don't care about Julia and her bagel compulsion yet.) Julia put the paper down as the local news on the television caught her attention. ‘More details are coming to light about last week’s murder on the University of Utah campus. The body of the Lady Utes’ basketball player, Avery Thomas, was found last Monday afternoon in the women’s locker room. Starting power forward for the Utes, Mick Webber, was arraigned yesterday for the murder. The couple was engaged, and this is the reason many are finding this heinous crime hard to believe.’ (Needs something here--her thoughts, internal dialogue--some type of response from Julia.)

Critique: Cut the bagel obsession and get on with the action.

Would I ask for more? Not based on this one paragraph. However, in a real submission, where you had several paragraphs to entice me, Julia's response to what she's just heard would determine whether or not I asked for more.

Contest Clarification

Everyone is invited to participate in this contest--unpublished authors, published authors, previous contest winners. Published authors do not necessarily have an advantage here. I've seen brilliant stuff by first time writers and incoherent passages by authors who have several books.

One paragraph only. Multiple paragraphs will be disqualified. If you have two or three very short paragraphs that start your story, you may choose to run them all together and maybe no one will notice.

Opening Paragraph #4

A crashing, thumping noise woke Jen Elliot from a sound sleep. Someone had broken down the front door her brand new house! (You're telling us too much here. If she's sound asleep and disoriented, she wouldn't quite know what had happened.) She screamed! Couldn’t help it. Jumping up, she ran around her bed, but disoriented, fell to the floor and painfully (no) banged her knee. (Awkward sentence structure.) Reaching a hand out in the pitch darkness, she encountered the dresser, oriented herself, and crawled to the bedroom door and locked it. She flipped on her bedroom light (not a smart move; not really believable) and squinted desperately (find a different adverb) for her cell phone which she quickly (no) realized was out in the living room charging. Stupid, stupid, stupid!

Critique: Watch your adverbs (-ly words). Avoid those when possible. Too many exclamation points. Those should be treasured and given out grudgingly. Starting your book with someone breaking into your home in the middle of the night is a good idea, but you are telling us about this event. We need to be there, to see it, hear it, feel it. I like the stupid, stupid, stupid. Get more of that internal dialogue going.

Would I ask for more? No. You need more practice developing depth and putting the reader into the scene.

Note to everyone: Practice is the key. I don't believe writing is an art. I believe it is a skill. Some of us may have more natural ability than others, but all of us improve with practice.

When you get rejected or negative feedback, don't give up--just practice more. Mary Englebreit (illustrator) says that as a child, she traced pictures over and over again. This helped her learn the muscle coordination she needed to draw as well as she does. Writing can be improved using similar techniques.

Find a passage in a book that you really like. Type it up. Then rewrite it, inserting your characters. Write it again, inserting different adjectives and adverbs. Write it again, replacing the action in the paragraph with some of your own. Write it again, changing the dialogue to match your scene. Then compare your final paragraph with the original. Does it have the same intensity? The same feel? If not, what did you do that lessened it?

Keep practicing. Notice good writing when you read it and examine it--what makes it work? Then practice writing using that same technique. Once you've learned a variety of techiniques, and can recognize and understand what makes a passage great, you'll be able to blend these techniques and styles to create something uniquely your own.


Opening Paragraph #3

Renee pushed the piles of books, scriptures, games, and Legos to one side so that the government agent could get through (where? Need a little more sense of place) and sit down on the couch. If she’d known he were coming, she would have cleaned up. Or maybe not. Soon after her husband’s funeral, she’d reverted to her original personality of doing things when she darn well felt like them, and not on strict, German hausfrau-type schedules. Anyway, who expected the CIA to show up on their (they who? Renee?) doorstep twenty years after they’d left America? (New paragraph) Sitting down across from Agent Rossmann, Renee took a closer look at him. He resembled Bill Gates more than a CIA agent – not that she knew what a typical agent should look like. For some reason, she was tempted to offer eight cows to his mother and hope he’d morph from a geek into a movie star right before her eyes. (funny) Or did the change only come after marriage? Realizing that she had started to search his fingers for a ring, Renee lifted her eyes back to his face and waited for him to tell her why he was there.

Critique: Fill us in a little more on the surroundings.

Would I ask for more? This is hard to say because rarely do I only get to read one paragraph and usually there's a synopsis. This one gets a qualified Maybe. If the query was good and the second and third paragraph were good or better, I might ask for a partial--especially if this is going to be a romantic suspense and the humor carries through.

Opening Paragraph #2

Stacy’s (some type of descriptor that indicates wet) blue jeans still (delete "still"; rarely is it needed) clung to her legs around the knees. The bathroom floor was finally (delete finally) mopped and the toys put away. Now she fought angrily (don't tell us this; show us by describing her actions)with her stupid wet pants as she tried to (passive) pick up various pieces of small clothing strewn up and down the hall. (New paragraph) “That’s it,” she thought, “I've got to remember to change into my junky shorts BEFORE the kids get their bath. Man, I’m never gonna…” (needs transition; drop "but suddenly") but suddenly, a little (a whimper is little; redundant) whimper of distress caught Stacy’s ear. She stood still for a moment, then her eyes darted towards a closed bedroom door as she heard the whimpering again, coupled with a different sound — giggles. “Oh dear,” she rolled her eyes as she marched to the door. “This is not going to be good.” (If I heard whimpering and giggling, I wouldn't roll my eyes. That's mild exasperation. I'd be off to save whoever is whimpering, and fur would fly. Also, I need some type of cue as to what she's going to find. Sibling teasing? Or torture?)

Critique: Watch out for passive voice and clear transitions. It's much better to show us that she's frustrated, angry, whatever by describing what her body is doing, rather than telling us what she is feeling.

Would I ask for more? No. But I might read a few more paragraphs.

Opening Paragraph #1

The phone rang, shattering the silence in my apartment and waking me from a rather nice dream ("rather nice" is too weak). I groaned as I rolled over and squinted at my clock. Eight o’clock in the morning (that is not unusually early. Why is she sleeping in this late? Is there an intriguing reason? Spill it here. If not, we don't care. Yet.) . Only two people ever called me this early and one of those was my mother (but it's not her mother, so this is misleading). Those who knew me knew ("knew me knew"... awkward & repetitive) that this girl was not an early riser. (New paragraph) My hand scrambled around for the cell phone, my sleep-addled brain trying to remember where I had left it the night before. My fingers strayed across the vibrating object (I did a double-take here. If it's ringing-audio-why mention vibrating-tactile? Confusing. Also, "object" is too vague.) (End sentence; delete "so") so I snatched it up to see the ("to see" is passive; "looked at" stronger)caller I.D. Yep, my oldest sister. (This is disruptive to flow; reader is expecting it to be her mother.) It was incredibly (weak description) tempting to end the call, roll over, and go back to sleep, but I forced myself to answer the phone. It had better be a national emergency. (This last sentence is the best of the paragraph.)

Critique: This paragraph needs to be strengthened with words that speak to the senses. You have the beginnings of some humor, but you need more. I need to care about her by the end of this paragraph, and I don't.

Waking up to the phone ringing is not a strong enough beginnning to a novel. It might work in a later chapter, but not here.

Would I ask to see more? No.

Comments vs Votes

Someone suggested that they'd like the ability to post a comment about why a particular paragraph didn't work for them. That's a good idea. It's always helpful to a writer to know why something worked for a reader, and why it didn't. So feel free to share comments (respectfully) in the comments trail, as well as votes.

To have your comment count as a vote for the paragraph, clearly indicate that it is a vote, as in: I VOTE FOR THIS ONE.

Remember, you may vote for as many paragraphs as you want, but you can only vote for a particular paragraph once.


Contest Time!

This contest is closed. Winners are announced here and here.

Check back often for information on upcoming contests.

Based upon e-mailed votes, we're going to do a first paragraph contest.

Submit a first paragraph suitable for an LDS novel. Somewhere in that paragraph there needs to be 1) a clear hint, or at least strong foreshadowing, to the genre; 2) an identification of your main character; 3) a sense of place and time; 4) a teaser to read more. There is no word limit, but too short or too long will lose you points. (This is totally subjective.)

Once again, there will be two winners: Publisher's Choice (chosen by me) and Readers Choice (chosen by you). Each first-place winner will receive a paperback copy of the LDS novel of their choice.

All paragraphs will have their own post, titled "Paragraph #1," "Paragraph #2," etc. To vote, click on the "comments" link at the bottom of the paragraph you like. Cast your vote (as opposed to just leaving a comment) by clearly indicating that it is a vote, as in: I VOTE FOR THIS ONE

Stupid Little Details That You Must Follow in Order to Win:
1. Send your paragraph to my e-mail address. Include your mailing address and your choice of LDS novel in your e-mail so I can mail your prize as soon as the contest ends.

2. I will post all paragraphs to this blog in the order they are received. I will NOT post the author's name or any identifying information until the contest is over.

3. Enter as many times as you want, but send a separate e-mail for each entry. Each entry will be judged on its own merits. (That means, if one is really good and one is really bad, the bad one won't color judgment of the good one.)

4. The contest STARTS NOW and and STOPS Friday, September 8, 2006 at midnight (MST).

5. All paragraphs will be posted by midnight on Saturday, September 9, 2006.

6. Voting STARTS NOW and STOPS Monday, September 11th. Vote by posting in the comments trail of the paragraph you like.

7. You may vote for as many paragraphs as you want, but you can only vote for a particular paragraph once. You are on the Honor Code not to post multiple anonymous votes for your favorite paragraph.

8. You may vote for yourself, but again, only once per paragraph. And just so we don't end up with every paragraph having 1 vote, vote for a couple of others too.

9. Winners posted on Wednesday, September 13, 2006. I will post the first-place winners and two runners-up in each category. Unless you specifically request not to be indentified, the names of the winners will be posted.

10. In the case of a tie for the Readers Choice, I will put the names in a hat and draw the winner.

11. The same paragraph cannot win in both categories. I will select my winner before tallying the Readers Choice votes. If my winner is also the winner of the Readers Choice, the Readers Choice prize will go to the second place paragraph.

To send this contest info to all your writer friends, click on the little envelope at the bottom of this post. It will bring up a page that will let you e-mail the post. Or if that doesn't work, go to the "September Contest" listed on the right of this blog. Click on "Click Here." This post will display on its own webpage. Copy the URL (web address) line and paste it into your e-mail. Then send that link to every writer you know.