Friday, October 12, 2012

The Bookshelf Muse: The Path To 10K In Sales: Strategy, Luck & Mistake...

This is my client Angela Ackerman. I rep her fiction. Her wildly popular non-fiction started as a blog with Becca Puglisi, and is now a self-pubbed success story. Read all about it here...

The Bookshelf Muse: The Path To 10K In Sales: Strategy, Luck & Mistake...: I’ll admit my mind is blown knowing there are over 10, 000 Emotion Thesaurus books out there in the world. Becca and I are thrill...

Sign up for A PATH TO PUBLISHING online face-to-face writing workshops. Wether you choose the NOVEL TRACK or the PICTURE BOOK TRACK, our goal is ensure you understand concept, plotting, character development, scene development, action and emotional arc development, as well has how to pitch your work to agents, editors, and readers.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Elizabeth Briggs: Three Months As An Intern for Jill Corcoran of the Herman Agency

Ah, look what Google Alerts alerted me too:)

Liz Writes - Elizabeth Briggs: Three Months As An InternI just passed the three month mark as an intern for agent Jill Corcoran of Herman Agency, and thought it might be a good time to do a post about my experiences.  ..... (click HERE to read the whole post).

And Liz,
I am so lucky to have you as an intern. You above and beyond to help me in so many ways, and your taste is absolutely fantastic. I don't know how I ever did this job without you.

Thank you for your time, your thoughtfulness and your generosity.



P. S. As I said, Liz is super generous...this is from the last paragraphs of this post so go to her Liz Writes blog and ask away...

Interning has also made me a better writer, because I read so many different queries and opening pages and have seen what works and what doesn't. I've also learned a ton about publishing from Jill, and she's always happy to answer my questions about the industry. I'm very lucky that I have two agents to learn from! And in return, I want to help other writers as much as possible.

On that note, do you have any questions about agents, querying, publishing, etc? Would you like query or first page critiques posted on the blog? Posts about query trends or querying advice? Q&A sessions? Let me know what you'd like to see here!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Guest post by Janet Gurtler  who has 3 published books and 3 more under contract from Sourcebooks Fire, all to be branded with same book cover look. 

Let’s face it. Most of us do judge books by their cover. A great cover can do wonderful things to help a book reach intended readers. Or just as wonderful, help a book reach new or unintended readers.
When people see the covers for my books, I often get nice comments. (This is good because I’m fond of hearing nice things about my books;) )  I hear, “I love the way your books all have the same look and the circle title”.  

I’d love to take credit for the covers (Ok. not really, designers deserve their praise) but I don’t have a huge role in the covers. Book cover designers work with the editing and marketing team to come up with a concept intended to reach target readers. The cover tells the reader a little bit about the book’s tone or even which genre it is. When you see the cover for WHO I KISSED, you know you’re not getting a dystopian novel or a paranormal time travel romp. I hope that readers are starting to know the “look’, the “Janet Gurtler style”. That’s the goal. That’s the term branding heard so often in the publishing world.

The covers for my books are designed to reach contemporary young adult readers.  If you look at authors who write books similar to mine,  Sarah Dessen, Sarah Ockler, Elizabeth Scott,  you should get a similar sensation from their books. Feminine colors. Wistful images. I hope that the books evoke an emotional response and an expectation from readers that they will become integrated into a fast-paced story.

When I say my books, that’s really not accurate at this stage. By the time a book reaches bookshelves, it has many fingerprints on it.  Agents, editors, copyeditors, marketing, publicity, sales people-- so many people behind the scenes help make a finished book what it is.
I feel incredibly fortunate to be publishing with Sourcebooks. They have truly gotten behind me as an author (and all their YA authors) and are using their marketing shrewdness to brand the books. Did I mention marketing? Did I mention BOOK TOUR??!! Yes, I am lucky enough to be going on a book tour for WHO I KISSED! Check out the dates and cities here.

And please come and see me if I’m on your turf!! Anyhow. Sorry. The incredible sound of the word ‘book tour’ distracted me. (Squee!)

Back to covers. The similar theme and feel of my covers aren’t a mistake. They’re designed to let readers know that these books are by the same author. They should let you know that when you pick up a Janet Gurtler book, you’re getting an emotional book that takes you inside the character’s heads and lets you think about life and choices (at least I hope that’s what you’re getting). The covers have gotten me onto tables at Barne’s and Nobles under headings “If You Like Sarah Dessen..try these”.  It’s an incredible table to be on. Sourcebooks is doing a fabulous job.
Of course, book covers even when approved, go through tweaks before the final version. Look at this first shot at a cover for WHO I KISSED.

I have to admit, I really hated the boy in the cover. (no offense to his mother or him, it’s nothing personal) To me he looked kind of stalkerish and his jacket reminded me of an 80’s sports coat. My editor thought I was hilarious and off my rocker, but offered up a few more choices.

Of course, I picked number 3. Because he’s cute and has fluffy hair! And er, suited the character profile so much better than the other two. And then came a couple more tweaks. First we had this:

And finally the cover that’s on the books today:

Can you spot the differences from start to finish??
As mentioned, I’m a huge fan of the covers and a huge fan of Sourcebooks. They do a fabulous job branding and promoting their authors. It’s truly my pleasure to be published with them! What are some of your favorite YA covers? Why?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


 I have added to this previous post because like the pub industry, I am evolving and have more to say on the subject....

What makes a book sell to a publisher, and sell-through to readers?

It is NOT how fabulous your website or blog is. It is NOT how many facebook or twitter friends you have, how many publishing links you forward or put on said website, blog, facebook and twitter. It is not how much editors and agents like you, though being a pain in the arse will NOT help you in any way, shape or form.

What sells a book is THE WRITING coupled with an ORIGINAL, COMPELLING CONCEPT!

You have heard that great writing will rise to the top and find its way. Yet we all know that not all great writing sells. There is marketing and sales to contend with, and even in my 3 short years of agenting I have had quite a number of books that editors loved and sales and marketing told them that it would sell, but just not enough....and the books are still not published. Breaks my heart. Breaks the editors' hearts. And oh, the author. So very unfair. BUT, publishing is a business and fair is not the leading part of the equation here.

But couple GREAT WRITING with an ORIGINAL AND COMPELLING CONCEPT and you are 75% there. The rest is luck, timing, bizarre unknown factors that none of us understand but we kill ourselves trying to, and kismet. When HARRY POTTER, TWILIGHT, WIMPY KID, 13 REASONS WHY, etc were brought to acquisitions meetings and given the green light, publishers made an educated guess that these books would sell. They make those educated guesses on other books (and in some cases pay big advances and pump marketing dollars into them) that are equally fantastic but for some mysterious reason never find their audience. I worked in marketing for a couple of decades and this is just how it goes. What made the Pet Rock, Silly Bands, Chia Pets, Fuzzy Wuzzy was a Bear Soap, etc sell? Don't know.

Is it all word of mouth? Is it superior product--maybe yes in books, but in Pet Rocks?

So let's talk about 'superior product in books'. In my opinion, the ORIGINAL, COMPELLING CONCEPT outweighs mediocre writing, but the better writer you are (LEARN YOUR CRAFT!) the stronger CAREER you will have as a writer be it traditional published or self-published.

And to the self-published, $0.99 sales price may get you a heck of a lot of first time readers (if you are so lucky) but if your writing is crap, who the heck is going to buy your second book? Let me quote my friend and 80+book author Kathleen Duey: Almost no one expects musicians to get good on an instrument without years of lessons, books, years of practice. There is a similar learning curve for writing. (read full post here)

So, my advice to writers other than the all important LEARN YOUR CRAFT---

1. Brainstorm concepts and pitches before you commit to a new book.
Even if you love your your new idea....write 10 more to get your creative juices going and see if you can come up with something better and/or improve on your original idea.
Brainstorming without self-criticism is an excellent way to unearth your creativity.

2. If you have a critique group/agent--consider picking the 3 that you most want to work on and share it with them to see if you are on track to writing something truly original and compelling.

3. Find the manuscript voice you want to work with. This is not Author Voice--Author voice is your unique voice that permeates all your work, this is the Manuscript Voice--the tone you want to tell this particular story in.

4. Write 3 chapters in your chosen Manuscript Voice and see if it is working. Share it with your critique partners, and, if you have this kind of relationship, with your Agent. While these first chapters may end up in the dumpster as many first chapters do, it is the tone/ characters/ setting/ concept/ freshness/ uniqueness that must shine through. Sometimes we come up with an amazing concept but we just cannot write an amazing manuscript to do the concept justice. I find this all the time in queries....amazing concepts with pages that are not compelling. If you cannot write to the chosen concept, pick another one. You have a list of 10+. Or brainstorm again.

5. Be absolutely mindful of every character you choose to put in the book. Why are they there? How do they move the story forward? What is interesting about them that will make a reader care about following them from page to page to page? What would make a reader demand book 2 and 3 because they can't bear to say goodbye to these characters? This is a must even for stand-alones. Don't you love that feeling when you slow down at the end of a book because you just don't want it to end?

6. Plot the heck out of the book. If you are a pantsers (as opposed to an outliner), no problem. Just make sure you go back through one full revision with the plot in the forefront of your mind asking How can I make this book UNPUTDOWNABLE?

I could go on and on but I want to hear from you...what do you think makes a book sell?

Sign up for A PATH TO PUBLISHING online face-to-face writing workshops. Wether you choose the NOVEL TRACK or the PICTURE BOOK TRACK, our goal is ensure you understand concept, plotting, character development, scene development, action and emotional arc development, as well has how to pitch your work to agents, editors, and readers.


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