This past couple of weeks between speaking engagements and teaching my novel writing class at the college, I have been critiquing and judging manuscripts for an annual literary contest. I’ve been doing this for ten years now- reading these entries for this particular conference in Seattle. Every year the manuscripts get better.
Bottom line- there is some tough competition out there.
Between the continual barrage of informative articles posted on social media and the countless ‘how to’ writing books, the ambitious and inspired would-be author is obviously listening, and taking the information to task.
Good for them!
Funny, but all I heard for the last several years was how the new ease of self- publishing would suffocate and all but stamp out pen-worthy writing. Not so, apparently. The flooded market has simply made the more determined writers more deliberate in their approach, so they will stand out.
By paying attention to authors, their publishers, and book sales over the past decade I have concluded it isn’t great marketing alone that sells books, and great books will not necessarily sell well on their own. Ultimately, it takes a winning combination of good marketing for a good book to achieve great sales.
There is the occasional exception. Free enterprise is often about offering you products without any quality control whatsoever. But hey, when someone can make a million bucks writing socially acceptable porn it just shows that America will always be a land of opportunity.
Amen to that.
If you have decided to take the high road, by going in the opposite direction of pure sensationalism, then what I will be covering in my blog posts for the next several weeks are the 12-step plan you might want to invest in.
This series to success (which I teach at the college in my fiction-memoir writing class) includes the specific elements we are to use as our guide when critiquing and judging those literary contest entries, so if you want to have a winning book, I hope these sobering truths that I will share over the next few weeks will be your commandments to faithfully complete.
1-Synopsis: The first entry in this 12-step series is the dreaded synopsis, which is the first thing any agent, editor, publisher, or contest judge will see if you are writing fiction. It’s more important than you think because it sets the mood for this stop-gate reader. If they find it confusing, boring, or irrational thinking, well, then you might be done before they have begun to even read your well-penned words
Whether being asked for a short 1 page synopsis or a more in-depth 2-3 pager, it should be a concise summary with no flattery or embellishments. Just a straight talking road map of your plot and character arcs, which means you will have a heroes journey for your main character clearly laid out, without holding back on what the resolution is.
The difference between that short synopsis and a longer one will be the inclusion of exactly what those plot twists and turns are, and a few words on any secondary scenarios percolating beneath the surface of your main plot.
Be sure to mention the growth your protagonist will experience by the time things are wrapping up. If your plot isn’t plausible and doesn’t stand out as being interesting and dynamic- don’t expect a callback from an agent.
2-Book Proposal: If you are writing nonfiction such as a memoir or a creative narrative, you will not be writing a synopsis, but a book proposal instead. Make sure that your premise and the purpose for it is clear. Unless you have endeared yourself to an agent or publisher for which you have made a substantial profit, also be sure the entire manuscript has already been written and perfectly polished before sending out that book proposal.
Why write a book proposal if you’ve already written the book? Well you wouldn’t, if you were an established author and proven money maker, but even if you’re a novice, you have to play the game according to the rules. Remember, book proposals are written for traditional publishers, including the agents and editors that represent them. Nothing defines traditional publishing better than their well-established rules and reputation for following them.
Your trump card is not having a time lapse between when interest is shown and the manuscript shows up. It will be harder to forget who you are that way, since you are virtually a nobody… for now, at least, until you play your cards right and that manuscript finally goes to press.
Speaking of going to press, next week I will blog about what press, exactly, your book might be going to when I discuss publishing options; a virtual Pandora’s Box of choices (some more accessible than others).
Stay tuned for part 2….
Personal blog and website: http://kathrynmattingly.com Edgy Words Unleashed
Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00EILN6YE