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 December, 2006


The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book, by Patricia L Fry (Ojai, CA: Matilija Press, 2006)

This book promises much and delivers even more.

As a small business publisher and former agent, I was surprised to see a book that covers such a large territory for beginning writers. Not only is there guidance on writing the book, there is also a surprisingly complete treatment of problems authors encounter when try to get their books printed, promoted, and sold.  (visit http://www.reserve books.com)

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Advanced Techniques:  Show - Don't Tell


by Sandy Tritt  www.InspirationForWriters.com

The First Rule of Writing is Show, Don’t Tell. That sounds easy, but what, exactly, does show mean?

            Let’s look at an example: Carey ate breakfast, then he took a shower and went to the store. At the store he met a girl and they talked for a long time. Carey liked her but she blew him off. Then he went home.

            Tells you a lot about Carey, huh? Okay—so this example is really exaggerated, but it hits home the necessity of showing and not telling. What can we do to fix it? We need more detail, especially in dialogue and action. Consider:

            Carey studied the frozen dinners. He’d had turkey and dressing for the last four days, so Salisbury steak would be good for a change. But did he want the “Big Man’’ or the regular?

            A scent teased his nose. Not the overwhelming smell of fish and frostbite, but a fresh smell, like the smell of skin just out of the shower. He glanced sideways and saw the most perfect arm he’d ever seen in his life. Long, slender, graceful, full of sinewy muscle and smooth skin. His eyes followed the arm to the shoulder and then the head. Her head. A head covered with long blond hair and containing a face that made his heart stop.

            “Hi,” she said, her voice rich and melodious.

            Carey’s mouth didn’t work. He tried to return her greeting, but only a grunt came out. He tried to smile politely, but his face erupted with a grin as large and toothy and goofy as a cartoon character’s . . .


            So now you have the idea. We need details. We need to know thoughts, feelings; we need to smell the perfume, taste the wine, feel the cashmere. Anything less cheats the reader from experiencing our imaginary world.

            We also get into the “show, don’t tell” problem in less apparent ways. For example, in description. Mary was a pretty girl, with blue eyes and blond hair. That is telling. Consider: Mary’s blue eyes glistened with joy, her blond hair bouncing with each step. That is showing.

            Instead of saying Molly is a wonderful person, say Molly is always there when anyone needs her. She’s the first to arrive with a casserole when someone is sick, the first to send a note of encouragement to those who are troubled, the first to offer a hug to anyone—man, woman or child—at anytime.

            Instead of saying Sam is a talented musician, let us hear the crowds cheer, let us feel his passion. Take us into his head as he strokes the piano keys:         Consummation of the soul. That’s what Sam called the gratification he received from music. When his passion became so intense it begged to be satisfied, pleaded to be released, and he was helpless to resist its urges. When his fingers assumed a life of their own, titillating the ivory keys with the complex music of Bach and Mozart and Beethoven, and he became one with the cadence, breathing with the crescendos, his fingers caressing the melody, until everything else faded, everything else disappeared, and only the music existed.

            Instead of saying Marci is a spoiled child, let us hear that whine. Let us—never mind. Just offer her some cheese to go with her whine and forget it. I really don’t want to hear it.

            Dialogue is another area where we have the opportunity to show or to tell. “I love you,” she crooned. “I love you, too,” he sputtered. And I cringe. First, using creative dialogue tags (crooned, sputtered) is one of my pet peeves and is discussed in Section 2. Second, it is cheap. It is telling, not showing. Let the power of your dialogue and the accompanying action show your readers the tone of voice and the emotion, don’t tell them. Consider: “I love you,” she said, her voice smooth as her fingers massaged his Rolex. “Love you, too,” he said. His glassy eyes roved over her naked body, his mouth too wet and limp to form words properly.

            You can’t tell us someone is a wonderful person, a talented musician or a spoiled child. We won’t believe you. You must show us. Throughout your manuscript, look for any opportunity to show us in real time, to act out, to let us feel. The difference will amaze you.

            But—does this mean we should act out absolutely everything? Uh-uh. Let’s face it—if we showed everything, our novels would run tens of thousands of pages—and readers would die of exhaustion. So what do we do? We must decide what information the reader needs. Just because we know everything about our characters and just because we spent weeks researching, it isn’t necessary to share everything we know with our reader. We must choose only the details we need to authenticate our story and omit everything else.

            NARRATIVE is telling what happens. This is useful when the acting out of the story (by dialogue and action) does nothing to further our understanding of the characters or plot.

            EXPOSITION is explaining why something happened or gives background information.

            One of the most difficult and most crucial elements in story-telling is knowing when to give play-by-play action and when to back off and summarize. Play with this. If a scene doesn’t hold your interest, maybe it is better to summarize it in a sentence or two and go on to something more important. However, if it is a pivotal scene in the plot or critical to our understanding how our character reacts in a given situation, go for it. Give us action, give us dialogue, and let us experience and savor every single moment of it.


Show, Don’t Tell

 Show the following (see Section 6 for possible solutions):

1. Jessica was a pretty girl, although she was rather stupid at times.

2. Kathy told Martin that he was too old for her.

3. “I wouldn’t go in there,” the secretary snipped.

4. Jeremy wanted to win, but he was afraid he wouldn’t.

(c) copyright 2002 by Sandy Tritt. All rights reserved, except for those listed here. The article can be reproduced for educational purposes (such as for writer's workshops), as long as this copyright notice and the url: http://tritt.wirefire.com are distributed with the pages. For use in conferences or other uses not mentioned here, please contact Sandy Tritt at www.InspirationForWriters.com.for permission and additional resources at no or limited charge.

   Keep writing!

Sandy Tritt


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Publishing New Writers,

December, 2006 (no. 712)


Publisher: Bruce L. Cook, P.O. Box 451, Dundee, IL 60118.  Fax (847) 428-8974.

Submissions/comments  cookcomm@gte.net.

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6 Sure-Fire Ways to Get Your Book into Bookstores

by Patricia L. Fry

Imagine that you are an author. You’ve just received a shipment of your first published book from your printer or POD publisher. You admire your book, hold it, fondle it and do your best to keep from dancing around the room. Some of you do dance around the room—I did. I even broke out a bottle of champagne.

You head for the nearest mega-bookstore to experience the thrill of seeing your books shelved there next to America’s bestsellers. You search and you search, but your book is nowhere to be found. As any savvy marketer would do, you approach the store manager.

"I’m sorry," he says. "We don’t carry self-published or digitally published books." WHAT? That’s certainly not what your fee-based POD publisher told you. In fact, as you recall, your POD publishing representatives claimed that your book would be sold in all major bookstores throughout the nation.

Think about it, is that really what she said? Or did she say, "We will make your book available to all major bookstores throughout the nation?" Translated, this means, "If a bookstore manager comes to us looking for a book of this type, we will be sure to tell him about yours."

I meet numerous disillusioned and disappointed authors each year at conferences, book festivals and online. They are shocked to learn that bookstores will not carry their books and they don’t know where to turn for sales. It might surprise you to know that even some of the small and medium-sized publishing houses do not have access to bookstores as an outlet for their authors’ books.

My advice to these authors is, "If the entrance to the bookstore is closed, go through the backdoor." I tell them, in essence, "Instead of whining and griping, expend your energies making your book irresistible to booksellers." How? Promote. Promote. Promote. When customers come in droves requesting your book, bookstores will stock it.

Demonstrate to the powers-that-be at Barnes and Noble and Borders that your book can attract hundreds or thousands of customers and they may well decide to carry it. Here are some ideas:

Make Your Book More Salable

A man came to me once with his self-published book and asked, "Why won’t bookstores carry my book?" At first glance, I could tell him several reasons. The book did not have an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) or a bar code. He had not filled out the Advance Book Information form (ABI) thus his book was not listed in Books In Print (the main directory through which booksellers order books). And the book had a comb binding. Bookstore owners and librarians are reluctant to stock comb bound and saddle stitched (stapled) books.

This man had also made another universal mistake. He wrote the book as a first step. I tell my clients, readers and audiences to always write a book proposal first. If you compile a complete, honest and thorough book proposal before ever putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, you will produce a more salable book.

A book proposal is a business plan for your book and, whether you want to believe it or not, your book is a product. Learn more about writing a book proposal by reading, How to Write a Successful Book Proposal in 8 Days or Less (Matilija Press, 2005).

Announce Your Book To The World

Have you heard the phrase, build it and they will come? Well, this concept worked in the movie, but it is the wrong approach to selling books. The author’s motto or mantra should be: promote, promote, promote.

Whether you’ve landed a big fish in the publishing industry or you decide to jump in and swim with the sharks, it is up to you—the author—to promote your book. No one will buy your wonderful book if they don’t know about it. No one will know about it unless you tell them. And with so many books being published today and readership dwindling, competition is an obstacle that most hopeful authors fail to consider.

This is not to say that selling books is impossible. On the contrary, it just takes creativity, time, energy and the willingness to step outside your comfort zone. A key to selling books is letting people know the book exists.

How does one get the word out? Send press releases to newspapers, newsletters and magazines. Announce your book, request a book review, offer to write an article and/or make yourself available for an interview.

Research newspapers through www.newspaperlinks.com, www.newspapers.com or www.onlinenewspapers.com. Locate columns related to your book topic: cooking, pets, education, fashion, crafts, business, seniors, finance or home and garden, for example. If you’ve written a novel or historical account set in a particular region, contact newspapers in that geographic area.

Locate appropriate magazines to contact through Writer’s Market, writersmarket.com or woodenhorsepub.com.

Gale’s Directory of Publications lists newsletters whose editors are hungry for new about books such as yours.

Make news by doing something noteworthy. Start a charity related to your topic, head up an unusual project and involve hundreds of people or attempt a difficult fete and challenge others to participate. Create stories worth reporting and then send press releases to appropriate media.

Newspaper stories, articles and interviews sell books. If you can get even just one newspaper in each state to run a story about you or to review your book, you could conceivably attract thousands of customers. If your book is listed in Books in Print, every bookstore everywhere can order it for their customers who request it.

Talk It Up

Let word of mouth drive sales. That is, your words coming from your mouth. Don’t wait for others to start talking about your book. You create the buzz.

Talk about your book everywhere you go. Carry a copy of your book in your purse or briefcase and a carton in your trunk.

Arrange speaking engagements. Go out and talk to civic group members, at conferences related to the subject of your book and at writing/publishing conferences. Appropriate venues for your talks might include libraries, schools, churches, synagogues, senior centers, specialty stores and/or businesses for example. If you have a book on ADHD, you might get gigs at medical conventions and PTA meetings. Schedule talks about your Civil War novel at Daughters of the American Revolution and historical society meetings as well as museums. Promote your book on business management through presentations at corporations, businesses conventions and so forth.

Carry Your Message Far and Wide

Arrange book signings and presentations throughout the U.S. Coordinate these with your visit to family in Colorado, your vacation on the east coast and your spouse’s business meeting to the northwest. Independent bookstores are usually open to book signings. If you can’t get into a bookstore, solicit specialty stores related to your book, coffee houses or other venues.

Before arriving for the event, arrange for a spot on a local talk radio or TV show. Alert at least one bookstore in this city to the fact that you are coming and that you will be promoting your book through radio station XYZ, for example. Knowing this, they will most likely take some of your books on consignment.

Be sure to get newspaper publicity for your presentation. Send press releases to all local newspapers at least 2 ½ weeks prior to your visit and follow up with phone calls.

Visit other bookstores while in the area to see if you can place books with them. If you have managed good coverage for your talk and good publicity for your book, they will probably agree to stock your books.

Produce an interesting, informative, entertaining newsletter. Use it to promote your book, of course, while also giving your readers something of value. How many times have you been told that you must give in order to receive? It’s true in book promotion, too. Ask potential customers to request your book directly from bookstores in their areas. As your subscriber list grows, so will your book sales.






















































































































































































Book Proposal Tip Sheet

by Sandy Tritt  www.InspirationForWriters.com

So you have to write a book proposal. Okay, the first thing you should do is panic. That’s right. Panic. After all, writing a book proposal is akin to stepping out of a plane at 10,000 feet and praying that you’ll have enough wits to pull your parachute release at the right moment. Or standing in front of 15,000 professionals to give a sixty-minute presentation—without knowing the subject you’re to have prepared. Or taking your fifteen-year-old out to drive for the first time—in rush hour traffic. In downtown Rome. Fear Factor has nothing on book professionals. Eating bugs is easy. Writing a proposal? Yikes! If that doesn’t get your heart pumping hard enough and long enough to count as your daily aerobic exercise, you just might be dead.

Assuming you’ve survived the panic step, it’s time to move on to the next stage: Avoidance. This usually starts by playing computer solitaire or scrubbing the garbage disposal. It can last for weeks or even months. Once your garage is alphabetized, your basement sanitized, and every item in your closet starched, pressed, and color-coordinated, it’s time to move on to the third step: Actually Doing Something.

How do you start? First, open a word processing document. Second, save the document as "Book Proposal." Third, look at the requirements for the publisher or agent you’re submitting to. Most will provide a list of what they want included, which may or may not include a cover page, table of contents, sell sheet, biographical sketch, book description, chapter outline, sample chapters, market analysis, competitive analysis, marketing plan, and manuscript history. Now, you’ve already panicked and you’ve already avoided, so breathe slowly into a paper bag and stay with me. In your open document, put the first requirement at the top of the page. Insert a page break and type the second requirement. Insert a page break and type the third. And so on, until you have a page for each part of the book proposal. Now, you are ready to move on to the next stage: Writing Your Proposal.

Start with the cover page. Type the name of your book, your name, your mailing address, your email address, and the genre and word count of your manuscript. Center it on the page and make it look nice. Go to the next page, table of contents. This means the table of contents of your book proposal, not your manuscript. List each of the remaining items in your book proposal and leave a space to fill in the page number later. Wow. You’ve already knocked off two of those empty pages. Now, take a look at the pages that are left. Which one is the easiest for you? Perhaps you know exactly which chapter or chapters you want to include for the sample chapters. Copy and paste them into your book proposal. Another page done. Perhaps you’ve already written a synopsis of your work. Copy and paste it into your sell sheet. Now, again, look at what pages you have left and pick the easiest one. If you need to write a bio, remember that what the agent or editor is looking for here is why you are the best person to write this specific book, so unless having spent six months in the hospital when you were eight directly affects your ability to write this book, don’t mention it. Likewise, don’t mention your parents or your siblings or your first grade teacher unless they directly affect your book. Instead, choose your education, professional experience, and writing history—awards, publications, and completions. Type this on the biographical sketch page.

Look again at your remaining pages. The competitive analysis. This is the part that scared me the most, but turned out to be the easiest. I’d suggest making a trip to a large bookstore or your local library. Find the place on the bookshelf where your book should appear, and look at the books that surround this space. Select the best known ones and write their title, author, publisher, and a sentence or two to describe the book. Then write another sentence or two on what your book offers that this one doesn’t. You only need four or five books. And you’re done with another blank page.

Okay, what’s left? The book description. Describe your book, including its purpose, its intended audience, and what the reader will take away when he or she reads the book. Include what makes your book unique or compelling. The market analysis. Identify your book or novel's audience—the specific type of person who will read your book, such as parents of newborns or young people who are preparing to join the military, and then describe your ability, if any, to sell books at speaking engagements, conferences, book signings, and other events. The marketing plan is simply reassuring the agent or editor that there is a market for your book and that you are able to help market it. List ways in which you will assist in the marketing of your book: perhaps you will set up a website, create promotional giveaways such as bookmarks or postcards, arrange your own book signing, or attend conferences where people will be interested in this subject. If a manuscript history is requested, list any editors or publishers you’ve previously submitted the manuscript to.

Now, we have only one area left: chapter summary. Although this may take a bit more time, it shouldn’t be a difficult task. First, list your chapters by number and/or by name. Then, look over the chapter and write a paragraph that summarizes that chapter. Many times, the chapter’s opening and closing paragraphs will give you this information. If not, list the most important topics or ideas covered in this chapter. Now, go back and enter the page numbers on your table of contents. And guess what? You’re finished. Yep. Done. DO NOT bind it unless the editor or agent has requested you do so. All you have to do is proof it, send it out, and pray.

That wasn’t so hard, was it?

6 Sure-Fire Ways to Get Your Book into Bookstores  (continued)

Solicit the Indies—Independent Bookstores, That is

You might be surprised to know that there are still hundreds of independent bookstores around. What is an independent bookstore? It’s independently operated. The owner does not have to answer to a big conglomerate. Show an indie owner that you can bring in customers and he or she will carry your book. Be willing to leave your books on consignment and the deal becomes even more attractive to a bookseller.

Approach booksellers in person. Visit those within your community, throughout your county and then up and down your state. Travel to nearby states for access to more independent bookstores. And always stop in to show off your book to booksellers whenever you’re traveling.

Follow up in two ways—by doing your part to initiate sales in these areas and by checking back frequently with the store manager to monitor sales and payment.

Learn How to Play With the Big Boys

Land a traditional royalty publisher who has access to bookstore shelf space and your book will, most likely, be sold through mega-bookstores. How can you get a big publisher to give you the time of day? Make an impression.

There is one thing that impresses most publishers and that is a big bottom line. Show a publisher the money, honey, and he is likely to give you a whirl. Make sales, any kind of sales. Sell books over the Internet, go door-to-door, set up a stand on a hot day and give free lemonade with each book purchase, have friends living throughout the U.S. act as sales reps in their areas, buy billboard space in New York City for a month. Sell enough books and generate a following and a publisher will become interested in your project.

Here are two publishing industry truths:

  • Having your book in Barnes and Noble and/or Borders does not guarantee that your books will sell well. Not even! Many of the books that make it into a bookstore have a very short shelf life. Just look at the competition in these mega-bookstores. Books that aren’t selling well, are removed from the system within a matter of months.
  • Many authors become successful without ever stepping foot in a mega-bookstore. They sell books through specialty stores and Amazon.com. They do back-of-the-room sales. They sell corporations on purchasing their books as premiums (to give away to customers, for example). Other lucrative customers might include libraries and school districts. Some authors market their books quite successfully through their professional-grade Web sites.
  • Some of you have already found out that authorship is not for wimps. While youmay have been in your element while writing your book, promotion is something foreign and even frustrating. Use the points in this article to put things in a more reasonable perspective. Follow the suggestions here and, with or without the bookstores, you will succeed in this business.

    Patricia Fry is the author of 25books including The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book, (Matilija Press, 2006, www.matilijapress.com.) She is also the president of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) www.spawn.org. Follow Patricia’s informative publishing blog at www.matilijapress.com/publishingblog