Monthly Archives: October 2010

Author Success: A Well “Business Planned” Future, part 11

PART TEN: Book Outline Requirements

Yes, I totally understand your confusion. You’ve written a fiction and don’t understand why a book outline would be required for anything? The book is done, right? Had you written a non-fiction and created a book proposal, it would make sense. After all, in that case, you’re pitching a book you haven’t actually written yet and the publisher has a right to know what will be in it and how it will be presented. Sooooo … why do you need a book outline for a fiction?

You don’t, not for getting published or writing a book you’ve already written. You need a book outline to lay the groundwork for your marketing, promotion and publicity strategy.

Think about it. What can you do if you have a clear chapter by chapter outline of your book?

Locate a passage from your text
Recall a character’s specifics
Determine locations in the book
Determine plot events in the book
Find quotes from the book
Talk intelligently about your book

Now, let’s explore these one at a time.

  1. Locate a passage from your text – Why would you ever want to do that? Well, imagine you’ve just been asked to do a reading. You’ve been reading from the first chapter every time you do a reading and you realize that a few of the people coming to this reading may have heard it all before. Oh, where is that scene on the river? Was that in the middle? Nothing is more frustrating than trying to locate a passage buried in 85,000 words you wrote over a year ago. Having a chapter outline takes the pressure off for finding what you want.
  2. Recalling a character’s specifics – You sit at your computer with a big grin on your face because you’ve had such success with your first book, your ready to start writing the sequel! But … what was that guy’s name? How was it spelled? Was he from New York or St. Louis? Knowing as much as you can about your secondary characters saves a lot of research and repairs later after you’ve finished the manuscript. A good book outline is like a road map, helping you find, remember and confirm bits of information that can easily get lost.
  3. Determine locations in your book – There are several reasons to know this. If, for example, your book has an exciting event occur in Key West, you may want to connect Key West in your marketing and promotions strategy. If the event happens at a specific bar or restaurant or corner, you may want to do a book event right there. If you’re not traveling to Key West, creating a connection with the Key West bookstores may gain you a venue. If the book has a special situation happen in a specific location, perhaps you can display the book or a poster of the book there. Locations in your book can lead to terrific secondary venues for book exposure and sales. Knowing how to quickly locate those bits of information is fantastic.
  4. Determine plot events in the book – Again, this is wonderful to know at the drop of a hat. You may not be writing a sequel, but you may be writing a different book in the same genre. You can recall the general information surrounding an event you wrote two books ago, but are you repeating something in it? The location? The time of day or night or weather? Don’t you hate searching for hours for a little bit of information you really need about that event? Organized means time is saved. How cool is that?
  5. Find quotes from the book – Whether fiction or non-fiction, there will at some point be a time when you want to use a character quote. Where was that? Which scene did she or he say this or that? You may want to use it during a speaking engagement to discuss the development of that plot, or you may simply want to make that quote an identifying factor when people think about your book. It would be such a boon to easily locate that darn quote.
  6. Talk intelligently about your book – As we’ve discussed early in this Author Success series, being able to tell someone what your book is about in 25 words is super important. It serves as everything from a pitch to a sound bite … but your whole book is not 25 words. Its thousands of words and there will be times when you need to talk a little more. If you wrote the book over a year ago, went through the editing process with your publisher, began the sequel and/or possibly a different book all together and find yourself suddenly asked to talk about your book … you will need a few reminders. It’s only natural. You’ve moved on and if you don’t review the outline, you could come off sounding a bit confused. Talking intelligently about your book tells the interviewers and viewers or listeners a few important things.
    1. That you are excited about the story
    2. That you are thrilled to tell them about it
    3. That you are completely focused on what they want to know

The prospective reader really doesn’t want to know or care if you’re mind has moved on to the next project. It’s like actors doing interviews to promote a new movie. That work was done over a year ago and that actor is deep into a different role all together. He still must generate excitement for the movie he’s being interviewed about.

I do understand that creating an outline of your entire book seems like a strange, time wasting activity but trust me, as you develop your marketing, promotions and publicity strategies, everything in that outline is a reminder of yet another direction you can go. It may take some time to type out the whole outline, but the time saved down the road will be astounding.

Go on, don’t do it and you may learn the hard way that even though you know your book intimately, there’s no way on earth you remember that tiny detail you need NOW. Save yourself some frustration, come into the light and type an outline, LOL.

When you think about how many times you must refer back to your actual manuscript when developing a promotion, targeted marketing strategy, or simply trying to recall a detail for accuracy and continuity in your next book, you’ll be so glad you have an outline.


Author Success Coaching

Publicity Marketing Promotions

Happy Halloween Everyone!

Author Success, A Well “Business Planned” Future

Lesson 1, But … I’m a Writer, Not a Businessperson

Lesson 2, Your Subject Hooks and Selling Handles

Lesson 3, How Long

Lesson 4, Author Platform and Book Platform

Lesson 5, Target Markets

Lesson 6. Your Exposure Plan

Lesson 7, Your Promotional Plan

Lesson 8, Your Competition

Lesson 9, Resources Required

Lesson 10, Bio and Photo

The Incredible World of Editing!

Guest Blog by Genevieve Graham-Sawchyn

I wrote the most beautiful book ever written. I did. The plot, the characters, and the words … oh, I have always loved words. And here was the perfect opportunity to demonstrate just how many I knew. After almost a year of writing, it was complete, and made up of approximately 165,000 gorgeous words. Publishers were going to bid for the opportunity to represent it. For sure.

But I decided maybe I’d show it to someone else first. Maybe someone who had a little experience in that realm. Through a “Writer In Residence” programme, I met author Rona Altrows. She accepted, I think, fifty manuscripts, then sat down with those writers and gave them her opinion. When I showed up for my appointment I felt … what, nervous? Nah. My book was beyond question, wasn’t it?

Rona was wonderful. She told me up front that I had a gift for writing, and that my book had great potential. *ugh* Potential. What a scary word. The first pangs of fear clutched my gut. That was when she introduced me to the Incredible World of Editing.

She started by going through a brutal battle scene at the beginning of my book. She said, “This character is amazing. How did he ever survive all these adjectives?”

And so I embarked on an amazing voyage, learning about adjectives and adverbs (and the need to avoid most of them), Point of View (which was impossible to understand, until all at once I could see it, and I’ll never be able to ignore it again), tense … there were so many aspects to writing I had never considered. Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry too much about spelling and grammar. I have always had a natural propensity for those, which I believe stems from both the vats and vats of books I ingested as a child, and from natural genetics. Both my mother and her mother taught high school English and nary an early sentence went by that wasn’t quickly corrected (“Me and Brian went out” “That’s Brian and I, sweetheart.”).

All right. Done. All those things fixed, I cast my net a little further and joined, along with thousands of other writers. These folks were less gentle. Their hi-liters and strikeouts were everywhere. More lines than words, I thought.

But they were right. I took a little time and looked at my favourite books, then compared them to mine, trying to find just what separated the two. Then I went through every single word of my novel and ran through it on my laptop three times. I read it out loud twice – once to myself and once to my ever-patient husband. I printed it out and scribbled all over it. About six months later, it was 75,000 words shorter. I felt cautiously optimistic. I posted the first half of the book on – and it shot to the top.

So what is editing, exactly? We’re all writers here, so let’s look at some metaphors. Editing is like sandpaper on rough wood, revealing the shining oak within. Editing is cutting back on too much salt so that the meal is delicious (and healthier). Editing is folding clothes neatly instead of dumping them on the floor.

Writing is not editing, but writing cannot happen without at least a modicum of editing. Some of it is natural, obviously. For instance, your brain automatically changes:

“Riting storeez iz the thing I luv to do”    to     “I love writing stories.”

But when you write something a little more complicated, how do you know what goes where? That is the editing experience.

The first step is to write your story as well as you can. Read it over just one more time so you see any glaring error, like killing off a character then having him reappear in the next chapter. Fix those. Now put your story away. Seriously. Find a cabinet with a lock on it and do not look at it for three months.

Pshaw, I hear. But it’s true. Distance may make the heart grow fonder, but it also sharpens perspective. You are too close to your story. I know, I know. You are finally done. Let’s get it out there! But really, what’s the rush? The world has existed without your story, as have you. Take the time to do it right. Put it away. Write something new, or read a different book. Take up macramé. Anything but that book.

*Ding! * (That’s the sound of your calendar alarm saying three months is up.)

Take a deep breath and start to read. If you are fortunate, you will find yourself sinking into your chair, wondering where all these words came from. Did I actually write these? Wow! I don’t remember doing that. It’s not half bad!

Roll up your sleeves. Here we go. We will now edit. Here are the main aspects of editing, as I see them.

1) Please tell me you have spell-check on your computer. Please. Being Canadian, I have the added chore of deciding between British and American spelling, but that’s easily fixable by Search/Replace. I just have to ensure I’m being consistent.

2) Read out loud – preferably in a monotone. Do your sentences sound like sentences? Or are they just words? Do they go on forever, winding poetically through infinite descriptive, albeit beautiful words? Stop right there. Picture your character pulling up to a stop sign. Here are two ways for that character to see it:

Option 1: The sign emerging from the distant horizon is a thin sheet of metal, approximately 75cm across, with a matte background painted a bright, highly visible cherry red broken only by a 20cm white border and clear, easily distinguishable white lettering sending its message from atop a sturdy pole intended to reach the most unaware, recalcitrant, ignorant, distracted of drivers.

Option 2: The stop sign is red and octagonal, on a post, with white print.

Read those two contrasting sentences again. The first gives you terrific information. Were you bored? Amazed at the detail (unless of course you are researching stop signs, in which case it would be fabulous information, and I recommend Wikipedia)? Did you have to look up any of the words? Did you skip ahead? Of course you did. No one would ever realistically spend so much time describing something simple. Not even your character. If you did, your reader would probably have to put the book down just so they could grab something to treat their impending headache.

Here’s the trick: Go through your first page. Remove every adjective/adverb until the remaining words are “naked”. Can you improve any of those “naked” words with something better, something that negates the use of adjectives/adverbs? Do that wherever possible. Then add the necessary descriptive words and no more. Keep it simple.

3) Sentence Length: While it is good to vary sentence length, anything written non-stop is just plain annoying and amateur. It may seem beautiful to describe a sunset as:

The inevitable rays of the setting sun cast awe-inspiring parting glories in an amalgamation of pure and omnipotent expressions of the gods who have chosen to enliven their palette with the glorious scatterings of aureate golds and bittersweet oranges silhouetted against an endless heliotrope sky.

Too much? I’d say. How about:

The sunset’s stunning array of golds and oranges faded into the purple sky. Or: Evening was heralded by the majestic golds of the sunset.

Well, those aren’t the best examples, but I hope you understand my meaning.

4) Paragraph length: Same as sentences. The reader’s eye is automatically drawn to white space – more particularly to dialogue. Keep paragraphs relatively short.

5) Point Of View: If you’re writing third person from Mary’s perspective throughout most of the novel, then you can’t say what John is thinking. That’s like: Mary had been wondering how John was feeling. “How are you feeling, John?” she asked. John was happy she asked. No no no. Maybe John appeared pleased that she had asked, but it’s impossible for Mary to know if John was really happy or not. See? Complicated, but that’s Point of View. Trust me. Once you get it, you’ll never go back.

6) Tense: You don’t want unnecessary words, and you don’t want the story to stall. Keep verbs as up to date as possible, so the book moves forward. Instead of Mary was forgetting to tie her shoes, use Mary forgot to tie her shoes. Be consistent.

7) Redundancies: John stood on his feet. Where else would he stand? Mary saw the smile on his face. Where else would his smile be?

6) Dialogue/Dialog: This is a sticky point for me because I have yet to edit a book in which all aspects are done correctly.

“Hello,” said Mary. (See how the comma is inside the quotations?)

“Hello,” said Mary. (See how I used the word “said”? Though they have their place, it’s not necessary to always use “exclaimed” “responded” “declared” “replied”. “Said” is just fine.)

“Hello.” (Sometimes you don’t need to tag who is saying what. Especially if the dialogue only goes on for about four or five lines. Too many episodes of “she said/he said” sounds robotic.)

“Hello,” Mary said with a grin. (See how I didn’t say “Hello,” Mary grinned. That’s because she can’t “grin” a word. She can’t “sigh” it or “frown it” or “attempt” it.)

In the time it took to take my book apart and sew it back up again (then take away any evidence of seams), I read a lot of other books. And I have been humbled. There is some amazing writing going on out there, published or not.

I no longer believe my story will change any aspect of the world, but at least I know it’s something worthy of a reader’s time. At last, an amazing agent decided my book was what he had been seeking. He wasn’t through with me, though. He had me re-write the ending three times. When he finally emailed back and said “Yes, I think we’ll go with that,” I felt dizzy with relief. In very little time he called to say Berkley Publishing (a division of PenguinUSA) wanted not only to publish my book, but wanted a companion novel to go with it. That was one of the greatest moments of my life. But then came another one. He said, “The editor said there was virtually no editing to be done.” So those years of writing, re-writing, nit-picking, agonizing, deleting … it was all worthwhile.

It took a long time to get that right. It took a ton of practice. My subsequent novels started to emerge with less need for re-writes. Editing had become a natural process for me (though nothing is perfect the first / second / third time round!). I started editing for other authors and found it was easy for me to sink into the “voice” of the author. They loved my work, and I loved doing it.

So now, along with my writing, editing is my business. If you have done all you can for your beloved manuscript and are ready for a professional touch, please check out my website:

I look forward to reading your work someday!

Genevieve Graham-Sawchyn

Author Success: A Well “Business Planned” Future, part 10

PART TEN: Bio and Photo

I can hear you now … “Oooh, this one’s gonna be easy! I already have a bio and photo.” Wait. Don’t think so fast. There are several things to consider when you’re creating the correct image for yourself. You’ll notice I didn’t say the “perfect” image for yourself and there’s a very good reason for that. This part of a Well Business Planned Future covers the obvious – a bio that honestly and correctly states your qualifications and a photo that shows not only who you are, but how you want to be perceived. In addition, today we’re going to slip into the realms of  voice, timely poise and action. In other words, we’re going far deeper into the complete image of who you, the author, are.

Why? Because if you aren’t interesting, no one will want to know about you, interview you, show your face in a story or article, or talk about you. It’s only half the package to promote your book and never make yourself a powerful force behind that book, especially if you’re writing a series or if you write in a specific genre that attracts loyal following. Many agents (including mine) say that the reader doesn’t give a squat about the author, only the book and title. My response to that is simple … BULL PUCKS!

Seriously. It’s this kind of thinking that has put authors in a terrible position. Because of the shifting publishing industry, the author suddenly needs to not only understand and implement marketing and promotion solutions, but they need to create image. Literary agents are begging their clients to build platforms, but on the other hand, telling them that the reader doesn’t care who the author is. How can one build a platform without a hammer? More precisely, how can you build a platform without being an author who is visible and approachable?

It’s time to take the reigns, ladies and gentlemen. Listen to everything and rather than shiver like deer in the headlights over this whole thing, drive the wagon where you want it to go. What makes sense and what doesn’t? Advice comes from a hundred directions, but sometimes it’s tainted with old tried and true systems that simply don’t work any longer. Book/Author marketing and promotion has slipped into a new place, it has unique, hybrid needs that require unique, hybrid solutions. Say “Bull Pucks” to your agent and/or advisors who tell you … “Readers don’t care about the author, only the book and title, and oh by the way, start building a platform” … and let’s get your image how you want it.

  • Bio and Photo. All right, kiddos, when I say you need a bio and photo I don’t mean just a bio and photo. I mean a BIO AND PHOTO. Your bio must be true, accurate and impressive. It should identify you as the one and only person qualified to write the book you wrote. Your photo must be up to date and attractive. Yes, I know you prefer to sit at your keyboard wearing a sweat shirt and baseball cap but trust me, you are not making the kind of statement you want to make by using such a photo in your Media Kit (or on your twitter or Facebook page, but that’s another rant all together). Do yourself a favor and be honest with your photo. Remember who’s looking at it – i.e. television and publication people who might want to interview you or include your photo in their story. Remember the movie A League of Their Own? No one wants to be the Marla Hooch who only gets the long distance shots or radio interviews. Respect yourself and what you’ve accomplished. You’re an author.
  • Polish and Poise. Yeah, I said polish and poise. If you have created a powerful Book Business Plan, you will need to back it up with a polished and poised image. Let’s slip into the future a bit. You have built a wonderful media kit, displayed prominently in your author and book platforms (in the media rooms of your author website and your book website). A writer from the L.A.Times takes a look. She discovers that you are writing in a genre that is selling like crazy, that your book is coming out soon, where it will be distributed and what it’s about. She has just about all the information she needs … except we want her to want more. She checks out your photo and unlike your original photo (which may have looked like a smiling homeless person holding an ugly dog), this photo tells a clear and precise story about the author are. You look awake, bright and intelligent. Now remember, I’m not telling you to hire a professional studio photographer to take a corporate portrait of you. Your best friend might have shot the perfect photo while you were reading in the park amidst autumn leaves, or while speaking to a group of other authors, or even while simply sitting on your sofa holding a copy of your book. What I am recommending is that the photo represents your personality in an inviting and interesting way. Now, let’s say Miss L.A.Times writer likes what she sees, she likes your look and your bio information sprinkled with wonderful bits of information about why you became an author. Now, she’s a little more interested and pops you and email, requesting an interview.
  • Action Polish and Poise. It starts the same way, a radio or television interviewer with a book-talk show responds to your request or press release, comes to your websites for the media kits and sees what he sees. Will you be interesting enough to present on radio or television? Is there enough information in the bio and photo to make a lively interview? Say they think “yes” and give you a call. You have questions to ask. Don’t get all flustered and excited and just say you’ll be there with bells on. Your questions should include:
    • What questions will they be asking?
    • Will they require a copy of you book to read before the interview?
    • How long will the interview take? Is it live or taped? How long will the total interview be, after editing?
    • Should you arrive early?
    • If television, what should you wear (colors or styles)? How much makeup should you wear, or will there be a makeup artist there?
    • If television, what should you bring? A book? Your banner or poster (the one you should already have for promotional events)?
    • If radio, will they be asking you to read an excerpt?
    • Will they provide you with a copy of the interview for your website media room?
    • What day and time will the interview be aired?
    • And finally … what kind of cookies do they like because you should always remember to treat them nicely. A sweet thank-you is always appreciated by the interviewer and staff, and doing something nice keeps you in their memory, a great thing for when your next book comes out.
    • In the meantime, if this is your first interview, try practicing. Get a tape recorder and listen to your responses to the questions they’re going to ask. Are your answers interesting? Is your voice clear or garbled? Are you talking too fast or too slow? Don’t panic, practice makes perfect. Listening to yourself talk or videotaping yourself as you make responses can be priceless in helping you polish your presentation style.

Now that we’ve covered Bio and Photo and a little more, what are you going to change about your current image? Are you ready for the big time because the truth is carved in stone … the Big Time doesn’t come to you, you have to lure it in!


Author Success Coaching

Publicity Marketing Promotions

Author Success, A Well “Business Planned” Future

Lesson 1, But … I’m a Writer, Not a Businessperson

Lesson 2, Your Subject Hooks and Selling Handles

Lesson 3, How Long

Lesson 4, Author Platform and Book Platform

Lesson 5, Target Markets

Lesson 6. Your Exposure Plan

Lesson 7, Your Promotional Plan

Lesson 8, Your Competition

Lesson 9, Resources Required