If you’re at all like me, you may only be able to write one book per year. Sure there’s NaNoWriMo where you write one book in a month, but you’re still going to need the other 11 months to edit, revise, and polish it into something you can submit. And the advance paid on one book may or may not be worth one year’s income. If it’s the latter, (NOT worth a full year’s income) then you need to think of ways to supplement your income. Have you thought of writing articles for magazines, newspapers or websites? Here’s your ticket to how to “pay the rent.”
A great majority of writers I know, who treat writing as a business, not an aspiration or a hobby, know that article writing is where the money is at. Not only can you write an article, based on a book you’re writing even, but you can do what they call “slice and dice,” which is where you can use the information you’ve gathered, and repackage it in a number of ways for a variety of outlets. For example, I wrote a 240 page reference book on Teen Depression. In addition to that, I wrote an article entitled, How to Spot Depression in Your Regular Patrons for a national magazine for librarians, pitched an article on How to Get Out of Your Funk to a magazine for teens, wrote a book proposal for Adults on “Depression and Anxiety,” and an article for Parents on How to Spot Depression vs. Regular Teen Angst.
The point is, if don’t take advantage of all of the files and files of information you gather while writing your book, you’re leaving money on the table. Surely, there is a stack of unused data, just waiting to be parleyed into other written pieces.
Take a broad topic that interests you: for example, cooking. Then find 5 different ways to repackage it.
1. Meals under 20 minutes
2. Meals for $20 for a family of four
3. Meals any child could cook
4. Meals with low carbs but high tastiness
5. Meals in a Crock Pot
There you go, you have 5 magazine articles from one subject matter aimed at a few different audiences, or outlets (such as on-line e-zine, print magazine, blog, book, newspaper) and you can submit different ideas to all the outlets.
My goal is to write and market two articles per month to add cash flow to my business (The Purcell Agency, LLC). As a professional writer, and business owner, it’s good to have steady income while you build your business’ assets.
What way will you butter your company’s bread?
© Tina P. Schwartz, 2016
When writing a novel, the hardest part is not getting down that “terrible first draft” but the editing process that comes after. Specifically, knowing where should your story really begins. My first drafts usually have at least 3-4 chapters that will be cut immediately. They are full of back-story and too much description of people and what’s going on in their environment. What the publishing industry refers to as “information dumps” muddles up the beginning of my novels. So I remove these chapters easily, but then I wonder, if I start with the immediate action/problem for the main character, how will the reader feel vested in this character and actually care what happens to him or her? That is the million-dollar question! What I appreciate most from authors I admire is how effortless their writing seems. They start with action, then pepper in past details ever-so-daintily to give us glimpses to a character’s past and make readers feel as though these characters are our friends. We love the characters and want nothing more than to see them happy and succeeding in life! Other than doing huge flashbacks, how does an author season their story to make it juicy? How do they add the important details of a character’s past and what has brought them to this point in the story? One technique that I felt worked great was in a new novel I recently picked up by author Emily Bleeker entitled WRECKAGE. The two main characters have been saved after two years on an island, following a plane crash. They are being interviewed for a TV special, and being questioned is how they revert back to past events. Readers are brought to the future during the interview process. It really works when you want to split real time with past events. Another outstanding example of how to go between the present, and fill in past events that led up to it is in E. Lockhart’s book, WE WERE LIARS. The mark of a truly great author, as I mentioned, is to make the craft seem effortless. You don’t want to take yourself out of the story and say, “Wow, the imagery is just great!” As a reader, you want to have the images pop into your mind much like the images in a movie. You don’t want to feel the writer specifically setting up such scenes. That is why I appreciate the art of writing so much, especially by those who do it so well! As for where to start your novel, start with the action and pepper in the past details where and when needed. Don’t dump in a bunch of random facts that muddle up the recipe! Happy writing!
TINATina P. SchwartzFounder & Literary AgentThe Purcell Agency, LLC © March 2015
Back around the year 2000, as a new writer, when submitting manuscripts to magazines and book publishers, I heard the term “slush pile”. I never thought much about it, or felt it was really anything negative. But now, as a literary agent, I am on the other side of the writing desk, and when I hear colleagues speak of “the dreaded slush pile” – I still don’t understand the bad wrap it gets.
Looking back at my early submission days, I wasn’t brave enough to attend a conference. No! That was for established writers, and I was just getting the courage to send out an article, or a contest submission. I felt that being picked out of the slush pile was my only hope of publication. Being naïve, I didn’t see that challenge as being some insurmountable task. (I’ve always been the eternal optimist.)
Flash forward to my work today as an agent, and when I speak to colleagues about how I find my authors. I tell them that two-thirds of my clients have been found by blind submissions (aka: slush pile). They marvel at that! As a relatively new agent, I am not really on the “conference circuit” like many of the well-known agents are. I may be invited to 1-2 per year, which have been largely successful for me. I’ve found nearly one-third of my authors at conferences, such as University of Madison’s Writer’s Institute, held every spring. (It’s a regional conference, not some big New York or Los Angeles extravaganza, but still, it holds a wealth of talent with its attendees!)
As an author, I received my first two book deals thanks to face-to-face meetings at both NY and LA conferences for SCBWI. The pitches were flukes, not even formal ones. I saw editors in hallways between sessions, and struck up conversations. (Yes, I’m pretty outgoing and can chat and make friends virtually anywhere.) Those conversations got me invitations to submit my work. Those submissions still had to stand on their own merit, however, they were then officially “Requested Materials” and shot to the top of the editor’s pile of submissions.
The point here is two-fold:
1.) Don’t be afraid to do face-to-face pitches, no matter how new you are in the business. Speaking to agents and editors isn’t really scary… we’re just book-lovers like you, and often authors ourselves. (Note: It is important to have your pitch ready in your mind. Don’t try making it up on the spot!)
2.) Just because you’re submitting a manuscript uninvited or blindly, it doesn’t mean you won’t connect with the right editor or agent. It happens every day at The Purcell Agency, LLC, and I’m sure I’m not unique in that happenstance!
Keep the faith, work on your craft, and get confident in your abilities. Those are the most endearing qualities we look for – talent, confidence, and sincerity.
Tina P. Schwartz
January 2015 ©
Where do you do your best writing? Is it with a notepad at your local coffee shop? Perhaps you bring your laptop to the library and stare at the blinking cursor in frustration. I find that the best way to work on writing, at least my fiction writing, is in the car. As a mother of three, I’m constantly driving here and there. Most of my time is spent waiting. I can spend three hours a day, just going around my small town, in the same five-mile circuit. That is valuable time where I can work out plot lines, problems with secondary characters, eliminate or create entire scenes. As a writer, you can use “down time” in your car in the same fashion.
The first main KEY is to turn the radio off! That’s right, it’s almost like meditation, in a way. The silence can be deafening at first, but once you let your mind wander, it will start going to that world you’ve created in the form of a novel. Personally, I have a post-it pad that pops out of the holder like a tissue box. I just pull one off, and another one pops up. At a stop light, I can jot down a few words to remind me of my stream of thought. Some people even get a small, inexpensive, voice recorder, or use their cell phones, to record a few thoughts. (Of course, this may not be possible any more with hand-held devise laws.) But still, you can work things out in your mind while driving in silence.
Before beginning each novel I write, I have to really formulate a main storyline in my head. I let it percolate before I even write a short, basic, outline. I spend hours writing in my head before I put pen to paper, or touch a single key on my keyboard.
So if you’re trying to find 15 minutes a day to write, let alone several hours, don’t wait until you can get everyone in the house settled down, and actually go to a quiet place to sit at a computer. Use the time you spend running errands, road-tripping, or wherever your car takes you, to get that novel going. You may not realize it, but even if you work a typical 9-to-5 job each day, commuting – especially in rush hour – is a GREAT way to get in that much needed writing time.
Do yourself a favor, and turn off that radio! Get lost in your own thoughts. By doing that you’ll add hours to your writing time each week, and be done with your story-telling much quicker.
If you’ve ever heard of Na-No-Wri-Mo, you’ll know that it’s a “Write a Novel in 30 Days” challenge that many authors do each November. Using the “writing in the car” technique may be just the idea you need to finally succeed!
Good luck and happy writing!
Tina P. Schwartz ©
Everyone from Stephen King to J.K. Rowling has received rejection letters. Congratulations, if you have one, you’ve made it into the exclusive club called “Writers”. Think of it as a right of passage. But why the Q-Tip, you ask?
After many years in sales, I had a manager that made rejection actually bearable. He explained it so clearly and simply that I’ll share that tidbit with you today.
It’s just that simple. It’s business, not personal. But as writers, our work is personal, isn’t it? No. Bottom line – your manuscript truly is a product. Although we feel like each piece we create is like one of our own children, and no one wants to be told his baby is ugly, we’ve got to take a businessman mentality. Take your ego out of it.
Whether or not that agent or editor gives you personal feedback, or a standard rejection letter, here are the Top Four Reasons you may have gotten your manuscript rejected:
1. Glaring errors (spelling, punctuation, or grammar)
2. You didn’t do your homework – sent wrong genre/age group/word count, etc. to wrong
agent or editor. You didn’t follow the given submission guidelines.
3. They like your story’s concept but didn’t connect to your character’s “voice”.
4. They like your character’s “voice” but the story just wasn’t strong enough/developed
Lastly, it simply may not have been that editor’s “cup of tea” so to speak. Maybe the subject matter just doesn’t interest them. It’s not you… it’s them! So remember this little acronym next time you’re feeling the rejection blues: Q*Tip!
~ Tina P. Schwartz, Founder & Literary Agent at The Purcell Agency, LLC © July 2014
What do you do when the big day comes – the cover art reveal, and uh oh, you hate what the publisher has come up with? It is so hard, especially with your first novel, or at least your first one with a specific publisher. You don’t want to seem like you’re being difficult.
What some authors do is to call their agent, sometimes in a panic. But no worries, here is what I tell my authors. First, I calm them down and assure them that their opinions matter. What I do next is find out what they had in mind when envisioning the cover – what art, background, colors, and fonts did they dream of when creating their books? This usually stops them cold, and they actually have to stop for a moment and think about it.
After brainstorming together, I combine some photos of what they want for the background, and what they want the cover models (if any) to look like from photos on the Internet. I superimposed them over each other in a VERY rough draft to simulate what they had in mind. I suggest instead of just whining, “Oh I don’t like that cover at all!” to give their publishers solutions before rejecting the proposed cover. It’s fun to play with font, and more importantly, to see their actual names across the book covers.
What happened next will amaze you! The publisher will often times listen to you, the author. One author was given several choices for cover models from the publisher’s available stock photos, and then the background was matched as much as possible to our own mock up that we designed.
Suddenly, it was like TA-DA! Poof! It was just the cover the author had hoped for. It was a collaboration of efforts between the publisher and author, and they both ended up happy.
Now sometimes, you’ll come to an impasse, as what happened with another one of my authors. When that is the case, the publisher usually has the final say so on cover art. They will “consider” other options that the author suggests, but ultimately, they have the final approval. (Unless you’re a NYT best seller, then you may have more pull, which is something I always try to negotiate in contracts – cover art final approval!)
Believe it or not, disliking cover art is quite a common complaint I hear from authors. If you take the time to problem solve instead of making empty demands of “I don’t know what to suggest for new art, just not this!” you will have a much better outcome. Hope this helps all writers out there.
Happy writing. Have a safe and fun 4th of July!
(Note: This cover was a collaboration between author and publisher after author had luke warm feelings about the original cover art proposal. It turned out beautifully and all parties are happy! FIRST SUN will be available September 2014 from Fire & Ice YA, by author Tara Tolly.)
Tina P. Schwartz, Founder & Literary Agent, The Purcell Agency, LLC (c) July 2014