There’s this funny thing writers do and it’s a big mistake.
During a recent conversation with a potential author client, he said he had a book idea that he was really excited about, but he was saving it for his second book because he believed there was a different book he had to write first. What?!
This is a huge mistake.
Don’t delay your big idea.
If you’ve got a great book idea that you are excited about, write that book! There are no rules that say which order books should be written in; unless it's a series, obviously. This might seem straightforward, but the writer's brain is constantly creating hurdles and rules. You should always question the rules. It helps to say them out loud or ask yourself, "Would I share this rule as advice with a fellow writer?"
Here’s what we like to tell our clients: Go where the wind is at your back. Whether that’s a book idea or a chapter in your book proposal. Use...
Many aspiring authors wonder - do I really need to have an author website? Well, consider this: as literary agents, one of the very first things we do when we get a book proposal, or someone refers an author to us, is to Google them. This is what publishers often do when they receive a book proposal as well. Do you know what comes up when someone Googles you? Ideally, they land on your author website!
That means that, yes, you do need to have an author website. And, it also means that you need one before you even submit your book proposal.
So now you know you need an author website. But what exactly should you include on your author website so it will serve you effectively?
To answer that question, we’re giving you free access to a teaching video on that exact topic from our course Grow Your Author Platform: How to Get Noticed and Sell More Books.
Watch: A Winning Website
In this module, we’ll explain the utility of your...
Your word count matters.
Should you be concerned with your book’s word count? Absolutely. Knowing and understanding why word count matters is an important indicator for your project. Let’s make sense of these numbers.
One of the scariest requests a writer can get is to add words to a manuscript she thinks is complete. Suddenly, what you thought was done or close to it, needs an extra chapter or (and this happens) an extra 5,000 or 10,000 words. That’s a lot of words to add to something you thought was done. But why does word count matter? Wouldn’t coming in with a low word count just mean the book will be shorter?
It’s not quite that simple.
There are two reasons why word count is important.
The first reason is word count helps a reader determine if your book is a fit for him. Every reader has an expectation for how long a book will be based on the genre they want to read. For example, if you write a novel and it is long, like Russian literature...
Every successful author adds value. They build a bridge to their audience with that value. It’s why we subscribe, follow, and listen to them. Whether it’s purely for entertainment or wisdom or insight, value is what every author has to bring if they want to succeed.
That’s why it’s important to stop what you are doing today and ask yourself, “What value am I bringing to my audience?”
This question plays a huge part in determining the felt need for the books you write. The things you feed your audience should be tiny morsels for the main course - your book. Value is what keeps them coming back for more.
“The smart author knows that everything begins with delivering value consistently.”
Check out this quote from James Clear, author of Atomic Habits: “Good marketing can sell once, but only a good product can sell twice. In the long run, your performance reverts...
Everyone wants to be a better writer. Even if you’ve crossed that finish line and become a bestselling author, there’s still room for growth.
As agents, we want writers that care about craft. Your writing matters - the voice, the style…even the punctuation. And while we might not grade you too harshly on that last one, you must show us you care about craft too.
That’s why we want to share with you the secret to becoming a better writer.
It’s not a magic trick or a style guide, though the last one will help you.
It’s not a course or a lecture or a YouTube video.
It’s like most secrets: It’s very simple.
The secret to becoming a better writer is to become a reader.
Great writers read. They read widely, across genres. We wouldn’t say it’s impossible to be a writer without being a reader, but it sure does make it a lot harder.
Ah yes, the query letter. Feared and dreaded by every writer, it’s the magical key to unlocking the door that leads you to a literary agent. There’s a lot of information available on how to query a literary agent, and most of it is useful. Today, we’re going to look at a few pro tips for how to query an agent and unlock that door.
First, only submit a query letter to an agent you’ve done some research on. Know their name and use it in your letter. Mention a previous book that the agent worked on that you enjoyed, too. Here’s an example: “I enjoyed Jon Acuff's Soundtracks. I saw your name in the acknowledgments section at the back of the book.” Mentioning past projects is a small thing that goes a long way with agents, and it lets us know you’ve done your homework.
A query letter should do two things really well: be brief and specific. It needs to be no more than a page long. You’ve only got a couple of...
Literary agents want to discover you. It’s true. You may not believe it, you may be jaded from the umpteenth unanswered query, but we really ARE looking for you.
As we’ve said before, your success is our success. That's why we want to tell you how NOT to connect with an agent.
If you don’t want to connect with an agent, send us a query to read your manuscript that’s outside of the genre we work in. That means you haven’t researched what we, as literary agents, are looking for. It’s okay to do a little stalking or research, whichever word you prefer. Every agent has a specific taste for a genre of books. Sending a literary agent something they aren’t looking for is a great way NOT to connect.
Here’s another way to NOT connect with a literary agent: Send us an “I’d love to pick your brain” email. Literary agents are busy. We’ve got a full inbox of requests. When it...
"No" is a one-word sentence. The time-management and relationship gurus of the world often lean on this sentence to convey the power you have in the choices you make. But as writers, we are often on the receiving end of that sentence.
"No, we are not interested in publishing you."
"No, we are not interested in representing you."
"No, we are not interested in working with you."
One of the biggest differences between amateurs and pros is their relationship with the word NO. A pro knows that a NO isn’t the end of the road - it’s a simple detour in another direction. For the amateur, they let those NOs hold them back from their publishing dreams.
Writers fear that two-letter word. And with good reason: Rejection plays a big part in publishing. It’s fear of rejection that often keeps us from writing the books we dream of. It’s never submitting our work because we don’t want to receive that NO.
But what if the problem isn’t...
Audiobooks Continue Their Hot Streak
The Audio Publishers Association reported sales numbers for 2022 at approximately $1.8 billion – a 10% jump over 2021. That was the 11th consecutive year of double-digit growth for the audio segment—the current belle of the publishing industry ball. That followed a blistering 25% jump in 2021 over 2020. The group’s survey of Americans 18 and older showed that 53% of American adults have listened to an audiobook, up from 45% last year. That’s some incredible saturation.
So Much for the Sunny Side of the Street
According to the good people at BookScan (I still can’t remember how to spell their new moniker), unit sales for the first half of 2023 finished down 2.7% to 353.5 million. After a flat Q1 2023 (helped by a one-time prince), Q2 tipped us into the negative – and that’s compared to the first half of 2022 which fell 6.6% below the pandemically inflated first 6 months of 2021. By way of...
Ernest Hemingway lied to you.
Well, sort of. If you’ve been in the writing game long enough you’ve probably read this quote by Hemingway: “Write drunk – edit sober.” And while one can appreciate the spirit (pun intended) behind this quote, it’s bad advice.
Today, let’s unpack three simple techniques for revising and editing your manuscript that don’t involve Tylenol.
A really sloppy manuscript, one that maybe took Hemingway’s advice a bit too far, is like giving yourself the freedom to show up unprepared for a job interview. You’re not taking this seriously enough. A lot of writers use this as permission to grant themselves the freedom to leave the manuscript wrinkled and untucked, creating more work down the road when you begin revising and editing your manuscript.
When you begin revising your writing, you want to give yourself the gift of starting the edits running downhill - not uphill. A clean manuscript that...