Thursday, May 27, 2010

What else does a publisher want?

Let's get back to what a publisher wants from an author. Be sure you keep good records of your periodical publications - name of publication, article and date. The list might turn out to be rather long. You should also keep what rights you sold. Writing requires good record keeping. Unfortunately, I've not been as consistant as I could have been. Some people have programs that help their record keeping. Tell us what you use.

I use a spreadsheet but occasionally forget to record something. I tried a special progam years ago that seemed to take more time than I wanted to spend. Perhaps I'll check some of the programs you suggest.

Some publications purchase articles but don't print them for years. The book publisher wanted to know any articles purchased but yet to be published. One such example is Highlights for Children. I sold them two articles in 2004 but have yet to see them in print. While attending their Foundation Workshop in 2004, Kent Brown admitted that the longest they'd held an article at that time was 17 years! I know of another author who requested the rights back and offered to return the payment. She got the rights without returning the payment. That could be an exception rather than a common practice.

If you've appeared on any TV or radio program, they wanted a copy of the interview. In my case, I've not done that. Next, they wanted to know what media might be interested in my book. I write for several regional publications which might be interested. I listed an art magazine for whom I'd written. I have a good rapport with my editors and will contact each with a press release. The marketing department requested all this information.

An author who sells to this publisher says they do a good job of keeping your book in print. I'm still awaiting the return of the signed contract. Once the book comes out, let's hope they market it well and that I, too, can generate sales.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Writing clips and credits

Today I will deviate a bit from my usual writing on the things to do before you receive a book contract. Actually, acquiring writing credits and clips are necessary to break into a paying magazine or book market. 

How do you get writing credits if you are a beginning writer trying to gain access to the magazine writing world? Try small publications. Although I've published in larger places such as Chicken Soup and Family Circle, I still write for a small parenting/senior publication in my hometown. The pay isn't a lot but I get plenty of exposure. I've written for a small specialized newspaper and low paying religious markets. Search for markets which pay little or nothing. Plenty are listed in Writer's Market or online. You'll also find those types of publications on shelves in the library, grocery stores or doctor's offices. They are the free local magazines or papers. They may cater to one readership or another such as the parenting I mentioned. However, once you pass a certain point in your publishing history, don't write for non-paying markets unless they are near and dear to your heart.

Case in point. Today I worked on two of the five articles I must finish by the first week in June and June 14th. One pays well while the others pay little or nothing. I enrolled in the Catholic Biblical School of the Denver Archdiocese. The class is divided into small groups for discussion. A young man in my group bought a floundering newspaper in a tiny mountain town not far from Fort Collins, CO where I live. He recognized my name on Facebook and discovered from my profile my desire to break into the travel writing market.

“How about writing travel pieces for us,” he asked one day at class. “I can’t pay you now, but you'll build up credits.” This small town newspaper is near and dear to my heart. I want to see him, along with his wife (the editor), succeed. I’ve written articles for them every other week for a couple of months. When I mentioned I needed to create a website, he volunteered to set it up since that is his business. So even though I’m not paid for the articles, I’m receiving much more in his giving of his design of a website for me in his spare time. I tell him how much I appreciate his work every time he assigns me a new task for the website.

My point is this – you never know how your non-paying markets may pay off. Sometimes it is in the form of an assignment from someone who read your work there. In any case, persevere, study, join a critique group and most of all start submitting your work. Writing is a hard market to crack, but it can be done.

Friday, May 21, 2010

It's Gone

With several sighs of relief, the contract I've been working on is in the mail. The fact it weighed just short of a pound tells you how much information the publisher required. I've covered some and will continue to update you on things you can do before you receive a contract so the process flows quickly once that prize arrives.

Not all publishers list so many details to be completed. Perhaps it is because this is a non-fiction piece. At any rate, don't be disappointed if you aren't asked for all I've mentioned! Much of the information related to promotion and marketing. Almost all publishers today expect authors to help in both those areas, more so than in the past.

One surprise question involved the inspiration for the title. Luckily, Debbie Dadey attended our critique meeting the night I searched for a new name. She suggested "How the West Was Drawn"  because researchers view Russell's paintings to see how the "real" West looked in the late 1800s and early 1900s. I added the part about Cowboy Charlie's Art since that was one of Russell's nicknames and because young children are always interested in cowboys. The question remains, "Will they keep the title?" We'll see.

Next, consider "advance quote leads." Since my main bibliography source passed away a few years after I met him, I wondered whom I could ask. Finally, I chose people who have interest in children and art -teacher/children's author (Ellen Javernick who just published "The Birthday Pet), former librarian/children's author (Debbie Dadey) and a museum curator. All three gave me great quotes.

Plan now who could help promote your book even before it comes out.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Outline, description and "teasers"

Next on the list of requirements by the publisher is an outline, book description and "teaser" facts for history or non-fiction. My book is a non-fiction/history interactive picture book on Charles Russell, the sculptor/painter.

Usually by the time my manuscript is complete, I have an outline. I've written a book from an outline as well as without one. Hopefully, if your book is finished, you already have what you need.  Since my book is based on 13 Russell art objects, the outline was easy - list the pictures. If I tell anything about them, I'll have written the whole book; it's only 1890 words. 

The other two requirements present some problems. Again, I'm not sure what kind of description the publisher wants - an elevator pitch description, a jacket flap description or something in between. I've done all three. They can take their pick.

The "teasers" required more thought and my searching for interesting points. Which really wasn't all that hard since I think the book consists of interesting points. I've come up with fifteen, some more interesting than others. I hope they meet the editor/marketing department's wishes.

Now I'm waiting for the developing of my recently made publicity shot. The sooner I send in the contract, with a picture attached, the sooner I can order the digital pictures, for the most part, from the Amon Carter Museum and get the show on the road. If all comes in by this summer, the publisher predicts a Spring 2011 publication date. I'm crossing my fingers, toes, eyes - anything that crosses! Actually, I've said a few prayers.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Contacts - Organizations, Media

The list of publisher requests goes on. Among the 23 items on my checklist is organizations, local and personal media contacts (newspaper, radio/TV) and any interview CD, DVD, or digital files you might have. The marketing department requires names and addresses of each.  I'll try to include email addresses and phone numbers.

For me, organization information is easy and quick. If not, I'd Google it.

Media contacts requires more time. To find names and addresses of newspapers, TV and radio, I first Googled "Colorado radio stations" and found On the at this link: They list every station ID frequency, city, fornat and website. Surfing the websites disclosed contact information and sometimes the person responsible for receiving press releases.

When I changed the Google subject to "TV/radio," another source, News Link,, came up. It lists all kinds of media - TV/radio as well as newspapers and magazines - by state. However, I didn't see weekly newspapers like the Lyons Recorder for whom I regularly write. In that case, I'd Google "weekly newspapers" or the name of the paper in which I'm interested.

When the release date of my book comes, I'll personally call, write or email my local media sources, introduce myself and make them aware of my upcoming book. If I'm lucky, they might invite me to appear via print, video or audio.

Unlike me, be ahead of the game. Make a media/organization list while submitting your manuscript. You never know when that editor's call or contract will arrive. Good luck.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Resumé and Autobiography, Con't

While writing my autobiography,  I found if I followed my resumé as a guide, I remembered places, classes and other items I might want to include. The trick is to make the writing flow like a story but include facts. A good example is Laura Resau's longer version of "about me" on her website:

In the case of Pelican Publishing, they want a rather detailed description of my life. I think I'll write several versions and pick the best with the help of my critique group. One version meets the needs of children. Another reaches out to publishers. The second might be more factual and not so much of a story. A third version goes to my new website.

Also, I'll write a shorter version for a media kit. LeAnn Thieman ( and Laura Resau, as well as other authors, have shorter versions on their websites for the same reasons. You might want to check them out. Refer to my last post for a link to author's bios.

In every instance, I'll consider what readers want to know about me. Do they want just my writing information? Or, some interesting tidbits that make me live in their minds - help them get to know me? Perhaps both.

Consider now what you might include in the "about me" section of a publisher's request, on your website or your blog.

Friday, May 7, 2010


I'm a day late. Sometimes "life" gets in the way. Again this blog concerns some things you can do even before your manuscript is accepted.

Not all publishers require the same elements. My contract with Pelican Publishing for HOW THE WEST WAS DRAWN - COWBOY CHARLIE'S ART sent a checklist of 23 items. Their promotional/marketing questionnaires are extensive. They requested an autobiography, resumé and uncopyrighted photo.

Be sure you check with the photographer before you use a photo. In my case, I ran into a problem. After paying for modeling portofolio pictures, I was informed the photographer owns the rights and I must get license from him before using the pictures. So, I now have about 250 digital pictures I can't use. Bummer.

Resumé brings up the question of how much and what focus they want. The Author Promotion Questionnaire asks for residence locations, occupations, personal intrests, education, sports activities, skills or other special pursuits. The information will be used for press releases, dust jackets and author biography sheets. Guess I'll put it all and change it if need be after I work with the editor for a while.

The autobiography presents more questions. It states a "complete" autobiography and resumé. Because autobiographies are 1st person and dust jackets are 3rd, how should I write it? How long is "complete?" I've decided to write both 1st and 3rd. Perhaps I'll save them some time in converting it to what they want. If anyone has a comment, I'd appreciate it.

In the meantime, before you write your autobiography, check this list for samples of author biographies:

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Let's Get Started

You can be a writer. In this blog, I’ll interview authors, give writing tips, list conferences, research books, and find links to other writer’s blogs. I’ll even throw in a few personal tidbits like the information below on how I got started.

As a senior in high school, an A+ on a story assignment encouraged me. I wanted to write, but other things got in the way – college, marriage, children. I composed newsletters, Christmas letters, invitation poetry and a children’s story. In my 50s I told my husband I’d like to enroll in the Institute of Children’s Writers beginning class.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” he asked, with good reason, I might add. I majored in education with a minor in English. After having children, I decided to be a stay-at-home mom. Besides childcare, I sewed, read, taught religion, gave tours in art museums, volunteered in classrooms and PTAs, decorated our house, made crafts and wrote for homeowners and newcomers newsletters. Now I wanted to write for “real” publication.

Needless to say, I took the correspondence class, joined SCBWI, critique groups and took workshops in the three states where we lived before my husband early retired and we returned to Colorado. At that time I had one publication of a puzzle in a children’s magazine.

My new critique group took me under their wing. After a few years and several rejections, two of us attended a writer’s retreat at the Franciscan Center in Colorado Springs. I listened carefully to every workshop presenter. But, with each new speaker and activity, I began to question. What makes me think I can write? Why am I here? Am I too old to begin? Do I belong?

The second night before dinner, I walked to Mass with my friend, knelt and contemplated again my questions, adding a few more in my prayer. Am I wasting my time? Or the time of others? Do I have something to say and the talent to say it? Just give me a sign, Lord.

The priest opened his sermon with a familiar story. A woman was asked, "What's the worse four-letter word your child can say?"
"Can't," she responded. She never wanted her children to face something and think it impossible.

The priest explained, “It is impossible for us to feed five thousand with five loaves and two fish or build a mountain or pluck a star from the sky. However, with hard work and perseverance ‘can't’ need not be a part of our vocabulary.”

With each of his additional examples, I recognized the sign. "Thank you, Lord," I whispered.

After that spiritual nudge I could hardly wait to get home to my computer. I buried myself in my office, ignored house dust and unvacuumed carpets and fixed quick easy dinners. I wrote not one but SIX articles and mailed them off to various magazines.

A month later in December, our bundle of mail contained a return envelope from one of the magazines. Tearing open the letter, I read not a rejection but my first acceptance of an article. Not even a week passed before a second sale arrived and a third followed within a short period. On Christmas Eve, I received a special gift - a fourth notice of an acceptance.

My writing doesn’t pay our bills. But, it is my source of pride and accomplishment. Still, I remind myself that “can’t” need not be a part of my vocabulary. I submit articles often with acceptances as well as rejections. Now I concentrate on my children’s books. I pray for a children’s book contract. It will come.

Monday, May 3, 2010

First contract tip

Some of the questions asked were, "Do you have a blog? How often do you post? Do you have a web site? How often do you update?"

In other words, you need to have both a blog and a web site. I suggest you start before you receive a contract. My timing was perfect. I took a blogging class on Monday. I also signed up someone to create my web site on Monday. On Wednesday, I received the contract.

I might also suggest you check all bases. Such as, I thought once an art museum owned a piece of art, they kept it. Not the case. Two of the pictures I used in my book were sold and they have no idea who purchased them. While touring the Charles Russell exhibit this past summer at the Denver Art Museum, I discovered one of my pictures was now in a Denver man's collection. As a prior docent for the DAM, I'll probably be able to obtain permission and picture file. Lets hope so. Will my having to replace the pictures negate the contract. We'll see.

I also didn't realize this publisher would ask me to provide the permissions and picture digital files at my expense. I have no problem with that since I get an advance. Cost is fairly minimal $25 per picture or, if the publication is educational, $15 per picture. Mine is educational.

For more information on why to have a blog, check out this Writer's Digest article.

More to come on Thursday.