Saturday, October 03, 2015

Want to Take a Writing Class from James Patterson? Now You Can...

David Rogier and Aaron Rasmussen Photo Credit: MasterClass
Celebrities and public figures are often thought of as "untouchable." If you're lucky, you'll run into one at the airport or a restaurant and get an autograph or selfie with them. So, imagine having the opportunity to have Dustin Hoffman better your acting skills or James Patterson hone your manuscript or Serena Williams enhance your backhand? Need a voice coach without trying out for the television show The Voice? Take voice lessons from Christina Aguilera and performance coaching from Usher. Annie Leibovitz explains light, shutter speeds, apertures and more in her photography class.

Photo Credit: MasterClass
Yes, thanks to a new platform for educating niche genres by the best in their fields, all of those scenarios are possible. MasterClass founders David Rogier and Aaron Rasmussen took time out from their hectic schedules to answer some questions.

HH: Explain how was this idea born, let alone executed?

"Aaron and I knew we wanted to work together since we first met.. We both shared a passion for learning and neither of us had a great school experience growing up. I was always getting in trouble for being so inquisitive, and Aaron kept running out of classes to take in the tiny town he grew up in. We decided our mission was to make the kind of classes we wish we had growing up -- classes with riveting and engaging lessons taught by the world's best. When we reached out to our ideal potential instructors, we were thrilled they were excited to be a part of MasterClass!" - David

Photo Credit: MasterClass
HH: How did you get all of these experts/talents on board with the idea?

"When we started reaching out to potential instructors, we found that that many of them were excited to teach. All of our instructors really want to share what they've learned along the way, and most of the time they'd come to our first meeting with exciting and brilliant ideas for their classes." - Aaron

Photo Credit: MasterClass
"One funny story from when we were first starting out...we knew we wanted James Patterson to teach, but didn't have any connection to him. So, we sent a few cold emails to his representatives. We didn't hear anything back, then a few weeks later I'm walking down the street and my phone rings, and I hear, "Hi, this is James Patterson." I almost fell over with shock. Before I could process what was happening I blurted out, "The author?" Luckily, James laughed and we had a great conversation. He had seen our email, loved the idea, and just called us up to find out more." - David

HH: Is there anyone you wanted that you couldn't get?

"We have been very fortunate to work with some really great and well respected instructors for the launch of MasterClass. We also have many more instructors on board that we have yet to announce. David and I each have people that we would personally love to learn from. For me, it would be amazing to have James Cameron and Christopher Nolan as instructors. Both are fantastic storytellers and visionaries." - Aaron

Photo Credit: MasterClass
HH: How do you see this concept expanding as technology advances?

"All of our classes include opportunities for instructors to connect with students and for students to connect with one another. We're constantly testing new ways to forge these connections to enhance the learning experience, and technology plays a huge role in this process. We recently hosted an office hours session with Dustin Hoffman in LA where he Skyped with a student in Sweden and critiqued his performance in real-time. This wouldn't have been possible several years ago." - David
Photo Credit: MasterClass
Photo Credit: MasterClass
"Each class has interactive assignments to encourage students to practice the skills they learn. For example, James Patterson's class includes a tool we call the "delete-o-matic" which enables students to make edits to several lines of text then compare how their edits differ from those of James himself. We're excited to create more technologies that help our students learn." - Aaron

Photo Credit: MasterClass
HH: What kind of response are students having to your classes? 

"The response has been amazing. Our students are learning and improving their skills every day. As an example, we got an email from the mother of a young student in Dustin Hoffman's class. The tips Dustin gave in his class helped her daughter get cast in her first big role! We had a mini-celebration for her in our office when we heard the news. Similarly, we have students who are beating the best players in their tennis leagues and having their writing published for the first time. It's amazing to see the impact our instructors are having on the lives of their students! Our ultimate wish is to have one of our current students come back to teach their own MasterClass someday." - Aaron

Thank you, David and Aaron.

For more information or to take a class on MasterClass, visit their website.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Q&A with Best-Selling Author Renee Carlino

If you love a good New York City love story, you will fall in love with Matt and Grace. Before We Were Strangers  (Atria Books, August 18, 2015) by Renee Carlino is a complicated love story of missed opportunities and the influence that outside factors have on a couple’s journey…or is it all really just part of their journey? I pulled Renee away from her writing desk to answer a few questions for her ever-growing fan base.



HH: What was your inspiration in using New York City as the backdrop to Grace and Matt's story?

RC: When people normally ask me what BEFORE WE WERE STRANGERS is about, I  say it's about a guy who sees "the girl who got away" on a New York subway fifteen years after they last saw each other. But I think BWWS is really about how people, rather than places or things, can color our experiences. I thought Matt and Grace would fall in love with New York together. Through their exploration of the city, they got to know each other, so NYC made for a great backdrop. There is an undeniable energy there, but I also thought it could be a place where one might feel extremely isolated among the masses, which is how we find an older Matt at the beginning of the book. I've been to a lot of cities in the US, but every time I visit New York, I get a sense of vitality and togetherness, yet at the same time I feel extremely small. I see New York City as a versatile character that I can use in many different ways to help tell a story.

HH: Both Grace and Matt are complex, deep characters...do you spend a lot of time character sketching before writing? 
RC: I usually know the big pieces before I start the book. Through the writing process other characteristics will develop, like the way Grace smells her food or swings a door open wider than the average person to accommodate her cello case, even when she's not carrying it. They are alive in my head and not based on a real person, so I suppose I am sketching them but not necessarily on paper. I do flesh the characters out much more in revisions so I enjoy the editorial process and find it extremely beneficial and rewarding.

HH: On a Saturday night would you rather be home in sweats or out in a LBD and heels? 
RC: I love my sweats and being a writer allows me to be in them an awful lot. I don't know any writers who get ready, do their hair and put on make-up to sit at the computer for six hours, so on a Saturday night I enjoy getting dressed up and going out when I can.

HH: Explain the muse of music as a prominent theme in your novels. 
RC: I just cannot live without music, so it finds its way into all of my books and it is the best food for my imagination. For BBWS, I remembered watching Nirvana Unplugged on MTV and thinking about the cello player. I wished that I could play like her. When I started researching this book, I found a more recent youtube video of Lori Goldston, the same cellist. She was playing in a station in Seattle. As soon as the music began, I got chills. The way she describes her instrument in the video is inspiring.

HH: If you could meet one of your characters in person, which one would it be? 
RC: I would want to meet Matt from BEFORE WE WERE STRANGERS. He's closer to my age, he and I share a passion for photography and I think I would have a lot of questions about his work for National Geographic. He seems like he would be a great conversationalist, which is high on my list of good qualities.
Thank you, Renee!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Q&A with Best-Selling Author K.A. Tucker

With over a dozen novels under her pen, K.A. Tucker recently added a new novel, Chasing River: A Novel (The Burying Water Series), to her Burying Water series.

I caught up with K.A. just before its release to chase down some answers about her fascination with Ireland, the depth of her characters, and her dream automobile.   

HH: Your passion for Ireland is palpable in Chasing River: A Novel; what is your connection to it?
KA: I dreamed of visiting Ireland long before I ever set foot there. I have Irish roots (as so many people do, it seems.) I finally made the trip last summer and, though I was there for less than a week, I fell in love with the people, the culture, and the countryside. I plan on visiting again, and braving the “wrong side of the road” driving in order to see the rest of the countryside.
HH: Amber’s character is complex in a common theme—torn between striving for independence and living up to her father’s standards; was it a conscious choice to downplay the role of her mother?
KA: I don’t know that it’s so much about downplaying the role of her mother as it is that Gabe Welles has always been such a strong and authoritative figure in his children’s lives. We first see this in Burying Water, with the situation that Amber’s brother, Jesse, finds himself in. Gabe Welles is the sheriff, after all. It felt only natural that it would be Sheriff Welles who would come running to Amber’s rescue in Ireland, just as he did for his son. Plus, Amber is still very much daddy’s little girl.
HH: Chasing River: A Novel has so many layers—love, friendship, family—and yet the landscape around these relationships is painted with great historic detail; how much research did it take versus innate knowledge?
KA: Before beginning this book, I spent weeks delving into both Ireland’s history and its current political situation. I knew that I wanted to weave the IRA into the story, but I didn’t have a good grasp of what that would entail. So I began digging… and digging… and digging… and so many dots in my knowledge base began connecting—the religious strife between Protestant and Catholic, the political strife between England and Ireland, the mass exodus of Irish to North America. Ireland has a rich history (much richer than I anticipated) and having a handle on it made spinning an authentic story much easier.
HH: What is your dream automobile?
KA: A Hummer (deer have a tendency to jump out in front of me on the road and tanks are illegal.)

HH: With over a dozen and counting novels under your pen, which character was the hardest to create?
KA: I struggled with both main characters in Surviving Ice: A Novel (Ivy and Sebastian), because they’re quite similar to each other. Ivy is not necessarily “likeable” as far as suspenseful romance characters go, and going out of my way to make her softer didn’t feel like the right thing to do. Her character does grow and change, but it’s done in a more subtle way. I hope readers see and appreciate that.
Click here to read my NewYork Journal of Books review for Chasing River.
Thank you, K.A.!

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Suicide Notes: Notable Writers Who Committed Suicide



"What do you write?" Any writer will tell you that this is the first question asked when people find out what they do for a living. It's not like identifying yourself as a doctor because most doctors will indicate their specialty, such as "I'm a cardiologist," or "I'm a chiropractor." But when writers' tell people that they are a writer, they prepare to explain what kind of writing they do.

My writing career can't be pigeon-holed because I write both nonfiction and fiction books as well as articles. "I've written two novels and am working on my third. Oh, and I'm ghostwriting four books for clients," is my current explanation-in-a-box.

It's easy to forget that authors started writing out of their known genre as well. Stephen King submitted several short stories to publications and tacked the rejection slips to his wall for several years before selling his book (and later the movie), Carrie. His book On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft, now in its 10th anniversary, intertwines his biography with advice for writers that many wannabe writers pay hundreds of dollars to learn in workshops. Very few people knew that lawyer turned author, David Baldacci, was writing a novel until he had already signed a contract with a publisher. He was a closet writer who spent much of his childhood and "free" time while in law school writing stories. Later, he penned Absolute Power late at night and on weekends. Even now his work is published in several different genres...there is no pigeon-holing David's work.

 

Every writer's story about their struggles, their early days, and when they broke through varies. Sadly, some became bigger than life authors after their lives ended. Sylvia Plath's work shadowed her husband's, Ted Hughes, until after the event of her suicide. Sylvia's suicide brings up an interesting reality -- Wikipedia has a link that lists hundreds of seasoned writers who committed suicide. One of them, Jean Amery, penned a book titled, On Suicide: A Discourse on Voluntary Death. In 1978 he followed his own advice and suicided. Evidently the philosophies on the pages he wrote were validated in his mind to the point of taking his own life.

In reading about the lives and deaths of the writers in this category, the reasons for suicide were evident -- medical or mental. I suppose that would be true of anyone who suicides, yet in reading the biographies of these writers, many of them felt that they set themselves free when they died. Some were unable to continue writing due to their medical or mental restraints; therefore, perhaps, they felt their lives were not worth living beyond that point, as evident in the letters they left behind. (I now wonder if any writer who has suicided did not leave a written note?)
 
My first novel, Whispers from the Heart, portrays a high school English teacher who copes with the suicidal death of one of her students. She uses journal writing in the classroom as a tool for the students to heal and try to understand why someone with so much life ahead of them would cut it short deliberately. This is a question rarely answered by the people left behind to grieve. It becomes about coping more than understanding.

In Sylvia Plath's case, she fought clinical depression for several years, but before ending her life, she realized and admitted to a friend that through her thoughts she created the distressing aspects of her life. In the biographical movie, Sylvia, Gwyneth Paltrow plays Sylvia and tells her friend, "You see, if you fear something enough you can make it happen." Unfortunately, she felt she learned this lesson too late.




Thursday, July 02, 2015

If Everyone Is Working for Free, How Is Anyone Supposed to Earn a Living?

Have you or your company ever hired someone from a website such as Freelancer, oDesk, Fiverr, eLance, or another popular site for outsourcing gigs? Alternatively, have you or your company offered services on one or more of these sites? If so, you are a part of the Global Online Employment trend that has been booming for quite a while now.

I personally have used a few of these sites as a resource to clients seeking a ghostwriter for their books and bios. Yet, I found that the competition was too willing to bid low dollar amounts for their work or they lived in areas where the cost of living was significantly less than mine, thereby being able to bid lower and still earn a significant living. As such, my bids were frequently four and five times higher than most (except on Fiverr, which is a fixed amount). Sometimes I landed the gig anyway, sometimes I didn't.

I also recently posted a photo captured in a chain restaurant and Tweeted it via Instagram. Within moments, I heard from the restaurant, which wanted full rights to my image to use for their social media campaigns. The catch was, they didn't want to open their wallets to pay me for it. My thought was, "I go into their establishment and open my wallet for their product. They come to my establishment and request full rights to my product, but don't want to pay me for it?" As a professional photographer, this aggravated me. So, I began to question, If everyone is giving away their work, how is anyone supposed to earn a living?

To find the answer, I reached out to Freelancer's Nikki Parker, Regional Director, North America & Oceania.

2014-04-07-LOWRESNIKKI363.jpg
Photo Courtesy of Freelancer
Q: Let's start with some statistics. How many people actively use Freelancer?


Freelancer currently has 10.7 million members. The term "active" varies for each user, as we have people who spend their entire work day bidding on projects or we have employers that need to use Freelancer.com at specific times of the year, e.g. tax time, end of financial year, annual reports, etc.

Q: There are many websites like Freelancer that create a marketplace for creative entrepreneurs. How have they impacted the way entrepreneurs earn a living?

Thanks to the internet the way that we connect, collaborate and work has changed quite dramatically and it is opening up a world of new opportunities.

When working online in a global marketplace like Freelancer.com there is the opportunity for employers and freelancers to barter and enter into an agreement to work on specific projects that suit both parties. An employer will choose to work with a freelancer after they have weighed up the freelancers skill, past experience, online reputation, length of time required to complete the project and the overall price and a freelancer can decide what projects they work on.

Q: How do creative entrepreneurs compete in such a competitive environment?

On Freelancer.com there are freelancers who are charging an hourly rate significantly higher than those they could command in their countries and for freelancers from the developing world they are able to earn their weeks wage in just one hour. Freelancers working on Freelancer.com certainly do not give away their work for free, in fact, it is quite the opposite and they are able to sell their services and work with global clients they would not previously had access to. Freelancers working on the site are not only able to make a living for themselves, but they are also able to lift their families out of poverty. A freelancer can choose what work they bid for and work on and if they deem a price range too low for that service they can focus on other projects.

Q: Isn't this highly competitive environment more difficult for those who live where the cost of living is higher? 

We are seeing a lot of savvy entrepreneurs and business owners who have typically sold services, e.g. web design or development, and have now realized that there are others around the world who are offering more competitive rates. Rather than see this as a challenge they are seeing this as a huge opportunity. They are now outsourcing pieces of work to global freelancers and refocusing their efforts elsewhere, e.g. building up a client base, sales or marketing for their business.

Businesses who recognize that the way we do work is changing and who adapt to these changes will be able to take advantage of the world of opportunities and a global workforce that they have at their fingertips.

Q: Is there a place in Freelancer.com for entrepreneurs who are accustomed to billing higher dollars for their work?

Yes I definitely see high quality freelancers charging well above the "average" bid price and landing the job! Ultimately if I need to get work done as an employer I have to pick someone who can do the work, irrespective of price. I genuinely believe marketplaces like Freelancer.com are opening up incredible opportunities for both freelancers and employers to get great work done, earn a good income and collaborate with clients from around the world.

I admit that Nikki opened my eyes to a different angle. However, I still won't give my photographs away for free to an establishment that will profit from them, and yet where I pay (make that "paid") for their products.


Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Is Your Author Bio Up to Par? 10 Tips on How to Write an Author Bio

Kind of like kids knowing they need to eat their veggies, authors know the importance of a well-crafted bio, but that still doesn't mean they like writing one.

Several years ago when I taught writing workshops through Barnes & Noble in Charlottesville, VA, the first exercise I had students do was write their author bio. The cringing, seat shifting, pen-tapping task gets them every time, and every single one of them groaned in unison. And yet, by the end of that first class, they proudly took home a well-crafted bio to stick on their refrigerator. To my surprise, each one returned the next week to see what hoops I'd make them jump through next.

That teaching experience taught me that authors really, truly despise writing their own bios. To help the medicine go down a little easier, I came up with my top 10 tips for writing a quality author bio:

1. You will need up to three versions of your bio. (Yes, I thought you'd love to hear that!) Write an extended bio for your website, proposals, interview sheets and media kits; a medium length bio for queries, guest spots on other websites and shorter marketing material; and a brief bio as a byline or for limited character social media websites.

2. Go ahead -- brag! Start with your greatest writing achievement. As an aspiring author, even one published article in the local paper counts and should be highlighted.

3. Leave your demographics for the end and keep it brief. Though the mere fact that you were born is awesome, as a new author, it's more important to establish yourself as a writer first.

4. When listing book publications, should you have any, italicize the title and do not put in quotation marks. Include the publisher and year published in parentheses after the title: i.e. Title of Your Book (Publisher, 20_ _).

5. Refer to yourself in the third person. On the longer bios, I personally like to interject "Heather" a few more times rather than using the pronoun.

6. The credibility an award gives a book can change the life of it! However, note only awards that are relevant to your writing. For example, if you write nonfiction gardening books and you won an award for your outstanding garden, then brag about it. Alternatively, if you won a blue ribbon for your brownies, but you write science fiction, leave out the blue ribbon (but feel free to send me the brownies!). Be sure to update your bio as the awards come in. When two of my books won awards within the same month, I immediately updated my author bios on my website and other places.

7. BS? BA? BIS? MBA? Ph.D.? When it comes to education, much like awards, if your degree is relevant, then note it. If you have a Ph.D. in psychology and are writing a book on teenage bullying, then certainly note it -- it's a credential. Alternatively, if your degree is in architecture and you changed careers to write children's books, unless your book is about how to build the coolest Lincoln Log cabin on your block, you can leave the degree out (especially in the short bio). I have a BIS degree in English and Secondary Education from the University of Virginia. These credentials support me as a writer, writing coach and workshop instructor, so I use it in my long bio.

8. Your bio will change dramatically as your career advances. In that same Barnes & Noble class, I showed student my 2007 bio and my then 2010 bio. It's amazing what a difference three years can make. I started my 2007 bio with the fact that I "reside in the midst of the Blue Ridge Mountains" because I thought it sounded really cool and literary at the time. I learned that where you live isn't so important. It was my publishing credits that advanced my career and changed my bio. Think of it like this -- it's not where you write, it's what you write!
Bonus: If you haven't read Stephen King's On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft, I highly recommend it.



9. If you can, have a professional (or at least a really good) photographer take a quality author photo of you. I used a photographer in Colorado and it took more shots than words on a page to capture the perfect shot. Once you have it, use it shamelessly. Most authors are not recognized by what they look like unless they're John Grisham, who resides here in the midst of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and author of dozens of books including, A Time to Kill: A Novel and Rogue Lawyer. But, an author photo is needed for your book's jacket, your website, social media and press kit (at the very least). Take the time to do it right. (You can read my previous article titled "The Relevance of a Professional Author Photo.")

10. Browse the Internet and look in the books on your bookshelves for ideas. Especially read the bios of authors who write in your genre.

11. Bonus tip: Read your bio aloud when you finish writing it. You'll know immediately if something doesn't sound right.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ghostwriting: Q&A with Ghostwriter Heather Hummel

"So, what exactly does a ghostwriter do?"

That question has been asked of me repeatedly during my over decade long career as a ghostwriter. Some already have guesses or an idea of what the career entails, while others have not a clue. Therefore, when David Wogahn approached me about including a chapter in his eBook titled Successful eBook Publishing: The Complete How-to Guide for Creating and Launching Your Amazon Kindle eBook, I jumped at the chance. The following is an excerpt from his book, a Q&A with yours truly that takes the mystique out of ghostwriting.



For the Time or Writing Challenged

Let's face it, as much as we recognize the value of being called an author and basking in the expert status it conveys not all of us have the time or skills to write a book. In these situations it makes sense to work with a ghostwriter--someone with the skills and qualifications to write on your behalf.

For this topic I sought out the advice of my friend Heather Hummel, a ghostwriter and successful author in her own right. Heather has worked with a number of professionals to help them either write their book or shape what they already have into a book. As an author she also brings a strong sense of marketing and what it takes to produce something commercially viable.

David Wogahn: What is ghostwriting?

Heather Hummel: In my role as a novelist, the characters in my fictional Journals from the Heart series come into my head and tell me how it's going to be! They show up in my mind and take me along each step of their journey...in other words, my protagonists own me while I write their novel!

But, my role as a ghostwriter is quite different. I wear a different pen for each client. Despite what might be envisioned, being a ghostwriter does not mean hiding away behind the scenes pounding words out for a client. It's a very interactive approach that requires give and take on both sides. That means I adapt my technique to match the client's needs.

Some clients are able to write and simply need editing and coaching on the direction of their book, others need help writing, but know the direction of their book. Clients hire me for my expertise in writing, formula and format of a manuscript. But, I still need a gist of their story, their message and purpose. It truly becomes such a collaborative effort that by time the first draft is complete, I have to step aside and touch base with Heather Hummel again.

DW: What is the hardest part about ghostwriting?

Heather Hummel: The number one challenge is writing in the client's voice. This means leaving any personal agenda (i.e. ego) aside while stepping into their shoes, learning their voice, their message, and their agenda for delivering it. In fact, one of my first paid writing gigs was for Albemarle Family magazine in 2005. I went on to write over a dozen feature articles for them, and even though I hadn't been married, let alone birthed any kids, I was the top writer for this family focused magazine.

DW: How did you get started?

Heather Hummel: The ghostwriting project that landed me an agent and a book deal, essentially launching my career, was Gracefully: Looking and Being Your Best at Any Age (McGraw-Hill, 2008), co-written with Valerie Ramsey (my mother), who became a model at the age of 63. It's often assumed that it was easy for me to write from my mother's voice. But it's not that simple, especially when penning a self-help book. The key is to constantly think about the reader and what they would get out of the message. In this case it was to seek new challenges at any age while staying healthy in body, mind and spirit. As the ghostwriter, I interviewed nutritionists, healthy aging experts and a Pilates instructor.

DW: How or does a ghostwriter receive writing credit? Heather Hummel: There are varying levels of ghostwriting--from pure ghost where no one knows you wrote it (this is often the case with politicians) to "with" credit to "coauthor." In Gracefully's case, I received public recognition as coauthor "with Heather Hummel" acknowledgment on the book's cover. Each has its advantages and can be negotiated in different ways. Some clients might benefit from their association with an award winning coauthor because the coauthor may have their own following. Other clients may not wish to publicize they did not actually write the book themselves. This is usually to protect their personal or corporate branding. In cases such as these, where a ghostwriter doesn't receive public credit, they can negotiate higher royalties and pay in trade for nondisclosure. It's the old adage...do you want the fame or the fortune?

DW: What should someone expect to pay a ghostwriter?

Heather Hummel: The ghostwriter's fee depends on the type of project, the advance [upfront financial payment from the publisher], and whether or not they receive royalties and a portion of the advance. Some ghostwriters, such as myself, charge a flat fee of $100 per page. This includes all of the time spent researching, performing relevant interviews, writing, and editing. For a book, a general fee would range between $20,000 and $75,000 if no royalties or percentage of advance. However, there are so many ways to negotiate different options, that there really is no "average fee." Since royalties and advances vary greatly per book and client, it's always a risk for the ghostwriter to write based solely on these two factors. This is why I've gone to a flat fee or per page fee.

DW: Are there ghostwriter "associations"? How do you find a ghostwriter?

Heather Hummel:

Association of Ghostwriters

International Association of Ghostwriters

And, of course you can visit my own website at www.HeatherHummelAuthor.com


*Originally published in Successful eBook Publishing: The Complete How-to Guide for Creating and Launching Your Amazon Kindle eBook; by David Wogahn

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Relevance of a Professional Author Photo

Due to social media, an author photo connects authors with their audience now more than ever. Since these images are not only long lasting on books, but are also shared on social media outlets, isn't it worth making sure they're great? The answer ought to be an obvious: "yes!" So, why are there so many unprofessional author photos out there, when it is the one visual expression that says: "This is the person who created the work you're about to read,"?

A quality author photo is one of the most important aspects of becoming an author, and yet it often slips through the cracks. Indeed, there are some very professional, well done author photos out there, but for as many great ones, there are a plethora of faulty ones. I am not one to use clichés, but as a photographer, I completely agree that a picture does say a thousand words. I look at it this way: If an author is trying to attract readers to read the tens of thousands of words they've spent months or years writing, they should use their best author photo possible.

This is where my experience as a photographer lets me address the author photo from both sides of the lens.
If you spend months or years writing a book, spend at least a day preparing for your author photo, because it is a critical part of your brand. Here is my take on some common problems and their solutions.

Problem: Too serious of an expression.

Some authors' facial expressions are overly serious -- as though such an expression depicts intelligence and print worthiness. Yet, depending on their genre, a serious expression isn't always appropriate.

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Photo Credit: Rankin
For James Patterson, author of Truth or Die, Zoo, and countless other books, it completely works. But, if you are a romance author, it won't work.

Solution: Genre considerations.

Before going into a photo shoot, consider your genre and what overall tone it depicts. If you are indeed a romance author, a pleasant expression of contentment is more acceptable than an intense and serious expression. This is one genre that the head tilted to the side and looking off into the distance, works. If you're a thriller writer, go for the intense, James Patterson-type expression. No matter what, keep your expression as natural as possible. A forced expression of any kind will be picked up by the camera.

Problem: Unflattering pose or posture.

When the camera is on you, pay attention to your body language. An author with their arms crossed will come off as defensive. Not everyone is "a natural" in front of the camera, but simple body language concepts go a long way with author photos.

Solution: Depict an inviting image. 

A simple change in position can make a big difference. For example, a person's arms crossed over their lap, while leaning into the camera, is more inviting than arms crossed over a chest and standing upright.
One common pose that works is when an author candidly places their hand on their chin or temple. This is surely an expression of thinking, which is true -- thinking about what to write next is a huge part of being an author. Be sure the look is authentic and not forced, which borders on cliché.
Women, as mentioned above, have the habit of tilting their head to the side, gazing at the camera or off into the distance. This does work for certain genres.

Problem: Photo processing.
 
An image that is off in tone, color, exposure and contrast/brightness, will look unprofessional. These are common problems that are usually fixable by someone who is talented with Photoshop. The ones that frighten me the most, however, are photos where the flash lights up the author's face in all the wrong areas (i.e. forehead and nose).

Solution: Hire a professional photographer. 

A professional photographer will help with not only producing a quality image, but they should also be able to assist with body language and posing.

In terms of a color versus black and white image, many old school male authors tend to lean toward black and white. This can be a great choice, and is often more flattering for those who have a few decades behind them. However, if you are a romance author, I believe your photo should be in color. If you're starting to see a trend between the relevance between genre and your author photo, give yourself a pat on the back.

Problem: Cluttered background.

The backgrounds that scream amateur are the ones with merely a white wall behind the author, or worse yet, but still a popular pick, the author standing in front of shrubbery (oops, did I just describe your own author photo?) Don't get me started on the backgrounds with too many distractions, like a plate hanging on the wall next to their head, or curtains that have busy patterns or aren't framed right in the image.

Solution: Find a background that enhances, not distracts from, your portrait. 

For the most professional results, it makes sense to hire a professional photographer. One great example is that they will know how to work with depth of field. Using "shallow depth of field" in your image will blur out your background, making you pop. "Large depth of field" keeps everything in the background in focus. A busy background, especially one that is in focus, competes with the main subject -- you!

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Photo Credit: Euan Myles
I love this photo of Kate Atkinson, author of Life After Life: A Novel, among others . The background is relevant and doesn't compete with, but enhances, her image.

Final thoughts: An unprofessional author photo sends the wrong message.

I realize that I have mentioned hiring a professional photographer as the solution for some of these problems. The reason is that I strongly feel that being an author is a business, and much like you would hire a CPA to do your books, you should hire a professional photographer to take care of your looks. There are several reasonably priced photographers out there who can do a great job. Don't ask a friend or family member to do it unless they have experience as a photographer.

Lastly, I recommend spending some time browsing Amazon for authors in your genre. Take notice of what their images depict, and use it to create the visual you want to send to your readers.

Note: My own author photo was captured by the talented Doug Ellis at Ribera Beach, C.A.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Two Facebook Features Every Author Should Be Using

The number of titles available on Amazon has increased at an unfathomable rate. For example, when I first published through McGraw-Hill in 2008, there were two million books on Amazon. Kindle wasn't a contender at the time, so this number represented paperback and hardcovers. Today, there are over 24 million paperbacks, over 8.5 million hardcovers, and almost 1.3 million Kindle titles. At the time of writing this post: in the last 30 days, 104,606 new Kindle titles were released. That's a lot of authors.

With the need to make their book stand out against tens of millions of others, an author needs every tool in their toolbox. So, image my surprise when many of them weren't taking advantage of two critical Facebook features.

Works At

I continued to be amazed by the number of times I went to a Facebook friend's "About" section on their timeline only to discover they didn't have their Facebook author fan page linked as their "Works At." Worse yet, many times it simply gave the generic term of "Writer at Author" and when clicked, it went through to a generic "Author" page.

I realized rather quickly that too any authors simply didn't know about the Facebook feature that allows them to link their fan page as their "Works At" on their personal profile. When I posted both on my timeline and in one of my writing groups asking if authors knew about this option, the responses in the comments confirmed that many of my friends and fellow writers hadn't known about this option, and they quickly went and added it.

Michelle Miles, a romance author of A Knight to Remember: 3 (Realm of Honor), and well over a dozen other novels, was one of those authors who took the tip to heart and quickly updated her "Works At" to lead her friends to her fan page. Miles is the perfect example of the point I was making. She has nearly 3,000 personal Facebook friends and just over 800 Likes on her author fan page (rather than the other way around). Now that her "Works At" reads "Michelle Miles, Romance Author," rather than "Author," the expectation is to drive those few thousand friends who haven't already Liked her fan page over to her page as new Likes.


I'm focusing on authors here because they are the ones I interact with the most on Facebook. However, any self-employed individual who has a Facebook fan page should consider doing this.

It's easy to update the "Works At" section. Simply follow these steps to update your profile:

• In the "About" section, click on Edit
• In the box that says, "Where have you worked?" start typing the name of your fan page.
• Click on it when it pops up as an option.
• Be sure to also remove any titles that click through to a generic page.
It's that simple.

Cover Photos
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While we are on the subject of fan pages, I should point out that one of the features Michelle Miles was already taking advantage of was optimizing her cover photo. While Miles has over a dozen books in publication, her fan page's cover photo strictly features her Realm of Honor series. Had she used more, let alone all 15 book covers, she would have overwhelmed visitors with visual overload. Reducing it to the Realm of Honor series attracts readers to that series who will likely go on to find and read her other books as well.

For best results, your cover photo should be sized at 851 pixels wide and 315 pixels tall. Any smaller and the image will be stretched. Any larger and part of the image will be hidden. Your cover photo essentially works as a billboard for your books (or service/product). As a professional author, your cover photo should be professional in design and branding.

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Author and public speaker, Valerie Ramsey, utilizes her cover photo with images of her book cover and two of her modeling images with a few keywords laid in to describe her. In this cover photo, her brand is represented and visitors instantly establish a feel for who she is when they visit her fan page.

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All photographers should be utilizing both of these Facebook features as well. One example is my own Heather Hummel Photography fan page, which has this image as my cover photo. The four images used in the cover photo showcase a sample of my work that is represented by Agora Gallery in New York City. I intentionally chose four images that shows both the diversity of my subjects as well as the continuity.

These are two simple features that should be used by every author, public, speaker, photographer, and anyone else with a business they are promoting. If you aren't sure how to create a cover photo and have a limited budget, go on www.Fiverr.com and hire someone. It's not that difficult with the right tools, and as an author, you already have the graphics -- your book cover and author photo.

Note: Speaking of author photos, be sure to read my article on the Relevance of a Professional Author Photo.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Why Agents Reject 96% of Author Submissions

Did you know that 96% of authors seeking agents are rejected? Flip it around, and it can be said that only 4% of them land an agent. Peruse through Writer's Market and you'll see that right alongside an agent's address is their acceptance rate.

The reason for rejections typically comes down to a few key issues. Follow these solutions, and my bet is doors will start opening.

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Photo Credit: Heather Hummel Photography
 
1. Problem: Failure to Follow Submission Guidelines.

Every literary agent has their own, specific submission guidelines. Failure to adhere to these guidelines will often put your query letter in the trashcan, either the virtual one or the metal one, faster than a shooting star disappears into the galaxy.

Solution:

Pay close attention to each agent's individual submission guidelines. Visit their website and click on Submission Guidelines. Read them in detail and find out the answer to these types of questions: Do they only want a query letter? Do they want a query with the first five pages? Do they want a query and the first three chapters? Do they only accept queries via e-mail or via snail mail? Are the submission guidelines the same for e-mail as they are for snail mail?

Once you know their guidelines, follow them to a T. Remember that each agent has different guidelines, so expect to spend a lot of time researching them.

2. Problem: Genre Confusion.

Not all men prefer blonds and not all women prefer tall, dark and handsome. The same rings true here. Not all agents want whatever genre you're selling. Sending a query for a romance novel to an agent who only accepts nonfiction genres is a huge waste of time. Not finding out what genres grab an agent's attention will only set you up for rejection.

Solution:

Use resources such as Writer's Market or AgentQuery.com and perform a search of agents who represent your specific genre. From there, visit your selected agents' website and verify that their bio matches what the resource says. Agent information from an outside resource can differ from the agent's website; therefore, always defer to the agent's website.

3. Problem: Let's Face It: Your Query Letter Sucks.

A bit harsh? Consider that in a recent informal survey I did on Facebook, 10 out of 10 people said they hate writing query letters. The reason was unanimous...because they simply aren't good at writing them. If someone is not good at writing them, I am certain agents will agree.

I am the minority in that I embrace the query letter challenge like a kangaroo to her joey in the pouch.

Solution:

A rock solid query letter needs a few components to grab the attention of an agent.
The opening paragraph should not rave about how your book is the next (fill in the blank famous book/author). Instead, the opening paragraph is meant to stylistically make a pitch regarding your protagonist and book in a way that the agent will fall in love with them.

The second paragraph ought to provide the synopsis. Do not include every little detail like the color of the protagonist's hair, what day of the week she gets her manicure, or all the friends she meets along the way. The synopsis is meant to summarize the essence of the obstacles she overcomes. Stick to the big picture details.

The third paragraph is all about you. What relevant credentials, honors, and awards have you or your books achieved? In other words, why you and not the next author in their inbox?

Lastly, the closing paragraph should recognize the agent's submission guidelines, why you felt they were a good fit for your novel, and an action to take...i.e. requesting the full manuscript.

Note: Include all of your contact information: address, e-mail address, and phone number.

4. Problem: Nonfiction is a Different Beast than Fiction.

Did you know that 70% of nonfiction books are ghostwritten? What most people don't know is that rather than hiring a ghostwriter to write their entire book, what they really need first is a complete book proposal, three sample chapters, and a cover letter. A book proposal is made up of many components, such as an overview, competitive titles, marketing, etc., and runs at least 10 pages.

The problem in this case is that most people don't know that to pitch to an agent, they need a proposal and only three chapters written, not the entire manuscript. Once the book sells to a publisher, the rest of the book is written.

Solution: 

If a nonfiction author is going to write their book rather than hire a ghostwriter, they're best served educating themselves on how to write and pitch a proposal to an agent. Alternatively, they can hire a professional ghostwriter to write their proposal and sample chapters. Because 70% of nonfiction books are ghostwritten, agents expect a nonfiction author with a big platform to hire a ghostwriter for their book(s).

5. Problem: Spelling and Grammar

I shouldn't have to state this, but I will. If you're submitting a query letter to agents, ensure that all spelling and grammar issues are resolved. This industry thrives on the written word, and typos or shortcuts are a turnoff.

Solution: 

Hire a professional (not your Aunt Rose) to read your letter. You should also read it out loud. It is amazing how many errors you can catch when you read material out loud.

The query letter editing and reworking that I have done with clients has increased their agent response rate from almost 0% to at least 75%. Many of them have gone on to land agents and multi-book deals. Following these five guidelines ought to help increase your odds of landing an agent.

One last note. Patience and persistence are a huge part of being successful in this industry. I'm sure you've read enough about all the big authors who were rejected, but, it was their persistence that paid off in the long run.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

What Compels an Agent to Sign an Author? Q&A With Literary Agents Jeff Kleinman and Michelle Brower (Part III of III)

In this Part III of the series from my interview with literary agents Jeff Kleinman and Michelle Brower of Folio Literary Management; they continue to shed light on the industry by discussing what compels them to sign an author and how willing they are to edit. 

Q: What compelled you to make offers to the last authors you signed?

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Michelle Brower
Photo Credit: Folio Literary Management
Michelle: I have two very different examples of authors who came to me, and they are both really great in their own ways. One author I signed earlier this year came through my slush pile. Her novel is literary women's fiction, and we are in the process of selling it now. The great part is that we didn't know each other at all. She really was a blind submission. The one thing that made me sign her was that the quality of her novel really drew me in. It worked in terms of pacing and plot, and it had a really interesting concept. All of those pieces came together and made me pull it out of the slush pile, read it and decide to offer on it. She has a career, but being a novelist is what she always wanted to do, and now we are making it happen. I really love when that happens because I do think there are a lot of very talented writers out there who aren't living in New York or attending the same parties or know colleagues who referred them to me or who don't have that kind of connectedness to the industry; and yet, they are good writers who have an excellent book. I hope to be the person who helps get them out there into the world.

The other example, which is a very different way of going about landing an agent, occurred while I was working with an author who published her first novel with a major publisher 10 years ago. It didn't do very well and her agent has since left the industry. She wrote a new novel and hired a freelance editor for it, and that editor contacted me and suggested I read it. I read it. I loved it. I offered representation and found out that there were seven other agents who also offered her representation! So, I had to really, really fight for her to choose me. I fought very hard, and so I'm very, very excited about that one as well. She wrote a great book, and as I said earlier, that's the heart of what is really important.

Having connections is better than a platform because, honestly, when one of my authors recommends a friend who's in their writing group, I pay attention, even if they're not always for me. There's something about having somebody I already know, like, and whose work I respect pass me something to look at.

For self-published books, I don't know that it takes an immediate platform, but what it takes is a lot of engagement, especially community engagement. We certainly encourage all of our authors to be on Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads and Instagram. It's really important to actually connect with a reading community, and for self-published authors that's pretty much the best and only way they can get the word out about their book.

I have definitely picked up authors who have been self-published because I've seen that they've managed to find an audience without anyone's help. Then I read their book, and I can see where I can actually be of help to that author. That's when it works.

Q: Do you edit clients' work?

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Jeff Kleinman
Photo Credit: Folio Literary Management

Jeff: I have been known to sit down with an author, develop the concept with characters and an outline, and then they send me three chapters at a time. That kind of incredible micro-level attention, however, is only the case for clients I already represent. For example, I was reading a revised version of a novel, and while reading it I got lightheaded, my fingers went numb, and I was hyperventilating! It was amazing. But, about halfway through it disintegrated. We had a long discussion about it, and he is now sitting down and reworking the outline. So, yes, I will work incredibly hands-on, but almost only ever for someone I have a relationship with.

Ultimately, an author needs to submit the best manuscript they can possibly deliver. The worst that can happen is when I pass on a submission, and I tell the author that I liked everything except X, Y and Z. and they respond with, "Gosh, I was afraid of that." Or "I hoped you wouldn't notice." Believe me, we notice. So, although we are willing to work with people, we want to work with people who are ready to be worked with.

Q:If you had one message for Indie authors, what would it be?
 
Michelle: We are not here to be mean to them. We are not here to keep them out. We are here to let in the books we think can work with. We are gatekeepers, but it's not because we don't like an author, and it's not because we don't think their work is good or that we don't think it has an audience. We just don't know how to find that specific audience. We're not out to say no to authors, we actually want to say yes. But, if you look back at the numbers I gave you about my slush pile (see Part II) we just can't. There are a lot of Indie authors who want to stay Indie. I think that's a great choice for many of them. However, some want to use the fact that they found their audience as a way to break into traditional publishing. I think both of those scenarios can work.

Jeff: The reality is, it's a brave new world of publishing, and agents are only one part of it.

Thank you to Jeff and Michelle for sharing their industry expertise, views, and stories!

Read Part I of the series
Read Part II of the series

Monday, June 22, 2015

Indie Authors Seeking an Agent: Take Note! Q&A With Literary Agents Jeff Kleinman and Michelle Brower (Part II of III)

"If a book has 250 reviews with 4 and 5 stars, and 70,000 in sales, 
this author has a lot of promise." 
-- Michelle Brower

If you're an Indie author looking for an agent, take note! In this Part II of my interview with literary agents Jeff Kleinman and Michelle Brower of Folio Literary Management, they open up about industry numbers that tend to grab their attention by sharing the importance of Amazon rankings, reviews, price points, and book sales.
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Michelle Brower: Photo Courtesy of Folio Literary Management
Q: How many book sales does it take to impress an agent?

Michelle: It definitely depends on genre because an author would need more romance sales to actually impress an editor in that market; whereas in women's fiction, historical fiction, or literary fiction, an author doesn't need quite as many sales. What I'm ultimately looking for is sales north of 60,000. But, a book's price point is also important. I cross-reference those two numbers to calculate about how many sales a publisher would be able to reasonably expect.

Price point matters because 50,000 sales is not just 50,000 sales. 50,000 sales at $.99 is one thing. 50,000 sales at $3.99 is another. 50,000 sales at $6.99 is entirely another. We can't sell books at $.99 and make money. Because of these factors, we find the e-book market to be very price sensitive.

As for free, if an author had 30,000 free downloads, we can't really use that as a number to determine whether or not it would translate well into the traditional market.
 
Q: How important are Amazon rankings?

Michelle: Amazon rankings are important for different reasons. I actually think they are really important if you want to grab the attention of an agent because that's mostly how someone would see a book... when it pops up higher in rankings. Those could have halo effects. For self-published authors, I would generally recommend starting with a little bit higher price point, but getting sales so that the rankings improve. The more readers hear about and buy a book, the more the book gets reviews, and it sort of all snowballs.

Ultimately, the ranking for us is really not what we are looking at though. Why? Because it doesn't matter at the end of the day if a book ranks #2 on Amazon because it sold 1,000 copies in one day but it never sold anymore or very few.

Q: How important is it for an author to have more than one book?

Michelle: It's critical for an author to create a relationship with their readers by having more than one piece of material. I always look at the relationship between the author and their readers. Most of the successful self-published authors will get a new reader on their second book who will go back and read the first one.
If an author has a series, that can definitely help, but I also think it's just the book. If a reader likes an author, they are more likely to go back and purchase something else or wait for the next release. I think that that's something in publishing that's not really considered the brand. It's actually the author who is the brand. If an author is doing well, readers will come back whether they are sci-fi, fantasy, or romance.

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Jeff Kleinman: Photo Courtesy of Folio Literary Management
Jeff: Michelle is right because readers who like an author's Book X would also be interested in Book Y. I had an author who wrote three books, and the first two were stand-alone. The third one has a really, really great character that everybody wanted to read about. However, readers didn't necessarily read the other two books because the character wasn't in it. So, it's not going to be just about the author. It depends on how strong a character is. That is something any author should be thinking about as they write because in order to have a loyal fan base, you need to make a character who is strong, quirky, and interesting enough to support multiple books.

Keep in mind that readers buy the successor books for one of two reasons. One is an author whose name they start to trust and the other is because of a character they start to trust. For example, a lot of times they won't know the author, and they just want to read more because of the character. Jack Reacher is a great example. A reader can know Jack Reacher, but they might not know Lee Child is the author.

Q: How influential are reviews?

Michelle: We tend to put reviews into two sections: customer reviews from Amazon or GoodReads only and "other reviews," because we know there are a lot of services out there providing reviews. Some of those "other reviews" have made a big difference for authors. For example, Darcie Chan had a Kirkus Review that ended up really launching her.

Reviews are intensely important for visibility. I'm generally looking for a book with upwards of 100 reviews, and that they're good reviews because certainly if a book has 200 reviews with several 2 star reviews, that won't interest me. So even though I'm looking at upwards of 100, I'm more comfortable somewhere in the 300 range. I think that at 100 reviews, a book doesn't have the sales yet to necessarily translate into traditional publishing.

Reviews are important because they affect visibility in the Amazon system. Amazon has algorithms I don't pretend to begin to understand, but one of the pieces is the number of reviews and at what level. It's important for self-publishers to work at increasing reviews and hopefully having them snowball into more reviews and sales.

Ultimately, when presenting to a publisher, I provide a cross-section. If a book has 250 reviews with 4 and 5 stars, and 70,000 in sales, this author has a lot of promise. Alternatively, if a book has 200 reviews and only 10,000 sales, it's going to be so much more challenging to present them and say, "You should invest money in this author."

***
Did you miss Part I? Click here.





This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Author Success Story Behind ABC's Resurrection: Q&A With Literary Agents Jeff Kleinman and Michelle Brower (Part I of III)

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Photo: ABC
What began as an interview with literary agents Jeff Kleinman, Founding Partner, and Michelle Brower, Senior Vice President, of Folio Literary Management turned into enough material for a three part Q&A series on what agents really want from authors. The forthcoming second and third parts of the interview touch on what they're looking for in both a manuscript and an author, as well as advice for self-published authors looking for an agent. This part, however, dives into the incredible story behind author Jason Mott, whose best-selling novel The Returned became ABC's breakout success, Resurrection. I've decided to start with Mott's story because it exemplifies how good things really do happen to good people.

Q: We all love a great author success story, and the one of Jason Mott's novel, The Returned, turning into the hit ABC series, Resurrection, is now at the top of my list of favorite breakout successes. How did Mott transition from his job as a customer service representative for Verizon to the best-selling author success story he is today?

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Michelle Brower: Photo Courtesy of Folio Literary Management
Michelle: I'm actually looking at the Resurrection poster on my office wall right now. Jason is a great example of how traditional publishing can work out best for an author. He was working at Verizon as a customer service representative at the time. He had an MFA in poetry, so he really had committed himself to writing.

I found his novel, The Returned, in my slush pile, making him an unsolicited author. I read it. I loved it. We worked together on it by doing lots of edits. When I sent it out, it turned out that it was very popular. Mira bought it for a significant deal. We then took the manuscript and connected with a co-agent who specializes in film and television. They then sold it to Plan B in an auction where other TV production companies were involved. That was when we made the pilot. After that, we hoped and prayed! ABC decided to order the series, which meant it launched on air, and the book became a best-seller. As evidenced by Mott, everything can hit on all cylinders.

Q: What was the time frame from book publishing to television launch?

Michelle: The Returned actually became a TV show before it came out in paperback. It never happens that fast. We had a lot of luck and a good set of circumstances. They bought the book before it was actually published and then produced it shortly after the hardcover came out, which was when we moved into making the pilot. I doubt it will ever happen like that for me again. It was just so good, and all the right things happened. That's not the typical experience, but we are all really thrilled about it. Jason is the nicest man. I have to be completely honest... he is so sweet; he is kind; he's hard-working; he is a dream author.

Q: For fiction authors, how important is platform over good writing?

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Jeff Kleinman: Photo Courtesy of Folio Literary Management
Jeff: I can't reiterate enough the impact of a great concept, as evidence with Mott, who is a really talented writer. He has an MFA in poetry, so he knows how to craft words. I am going to sound like a broken record, but it really does come down to excellent writing. Too many authors try to find a "formula" or the "key" that will get things through. I am afraid authors will think too much about platforms and connections and then they'll go out and do LinkedIn with every celebrity. That's not what it's about. The bottom line is you have to have some housewife in Dayton, Ohio, pick up your book and say, "Oh, my God, I love this book!" and pass it to their friend, also in Dayton, who then passes it to a friend in Indianapolis. That's how books sell. Word-of-mouth. Ultimately, to do this, a book has to deliver.

Q: How often do books go to auction? 


Jeff: It is not unusual to have a battle over books. Michelle will get a book, and then she'll say, "You won't believe this, but six other agents have it!"

She is always fighting for an author. This happens with the publishers, too. If we send them a book that publishers are excited about, there will be multiple offers. The problem is the authors think it's through some kind of formula: that it's about platform or the exact right query letter. They don't think it's because they actually wrote a book worth reading. A query letter can be really good, but if there isn't a good book behind it, it doesn't mean anything. Authors can't jockey into the system. They sit down one day and decide to write a book, but they must think about the voice and developing quality characters.

Michelle: For me, a fiction writer with a platform is icing on the cake. If the author has a platform, that's great, that helps me sell the book better. But what really counts is how good the book is.

Q: What are your slush pile statistics? 


Michelle: I primarily work with literary fiction, which takes a lot more work editorially; whereas, a romance agent might have more volume overall.

A few years ago I did the math for my slush pile when I created a database for a blog post. I receive about 15 query letters daily and request between 10 and 15 full or partial manuscripts in a year. The maximum number of authors I sign out of my slush pile per year is four. That would be maximum; I usually only sign between two and four.

Discouraged? Don't be. Jeff and Michelle give great advice on landing an agent in the next two articles.
Also see my previous article: "Why Agents Reject 96% of Author Submissions"