4 Emotional Obstacles That Trip Writers Up

4 Fears Writers Face Literary Agent (short)

Well, happy summer and happy Friday to you all! Today I’m over on Chad Allen’s blog, where he graciously hosted me for a guest post about the fears I most often have to talk my authors through. If you missed Chad’s wonderful guest post about how editors review and acquire proposals, then hop back there for some great insight.

And if you want to start this gorgeous weekend off feeling a little more ready to conquer the obstacles that lie ahead, here’s a great start:

4 Emotional Obstacles That Trip Writers Up, Plus How to Work Through Them

I often laughingly say that the job of a literary agent is to be a therapist and coach as much as a negotiator and advocate. It’s funny, but it’s true. On an average day we’re just as likely to be talking an author off the ledge as negotiating a contract.

Through this I’ve found one thing to be unfailingly true: the creative process can drive you batty.

I see how authors pour their entire hearts and souls into their books, sometimes sharing the deepest parts of themselves with the world. And I’ve seen how this often leaves them vulnerable to all kinds of fear and doubt. But I’m a firm believer that 80 percent of the creative battle is won in the mind. That’s why authors often need the perspective and encouragement of a friend and agent to talk them through the particularly tough parts.

After walking dozens of authors through the publishing process, I’ve come across many of the same emotional sand traps, just waiting to swallow up an unsuspecting writer. So today let’s pretend we’re sitting across from each other, sipping lattes and catching up, and let’s talk through some of the emotional obstacles that may come up on your path as a writer…

Click here to keep reading this post on Chad’s blog!

 

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How to Make Your Book Proposal Rise to the Top

How to Write a Book Proposal to Get a Publisher (long)

But first, the publishing stories worth reading this week:

The Elements of Style (Stefan Beck for The Wall Street Journal): Hat tip to Jarrett for telling me about How to Write Like Tolstoy, a new craft-of-writing book coming out. As the WSJ puts it: “Part of the value of a college education is that it alerts the autodidact to his embarrassing blind spots. This book is a decent substitute.” Well, that sounds essential, doesn’t it?

How to Read Critically and Become a Better Author (Kristen Kieffer of She’s Novel): “Just as writers create books, books are integral to the creation of writers. Think about it: would you be a writer today if you hadn’t first fallen in love with reading? Books can make an incredible impact on writers. And this impact? It thrives when you read critically.”

The Rise of Plagiarism in the Age of Self-Publishing (Joy Lanzendorfer for The Atlantic): A fascinating look at how and why plagiarism happens: “Some observers believed Harner resorted to plagiarism to keep her rankings up, Carew said. Before she was caught, Harner was considered unusually prolific, producing 75 novels in five years. Amazon rewards writers who come out with new books quickly by putting them higher in the rankings, which in turn means more sales. This policy also puts pressure on authors to write more to maintain visibility and to offset the dropping price of ebooks. ‘This may sound crazy, but I have 18 releases planned for this year,’ Carew said. ‘In order to survive, I have to put out as many books as I can … If you’re living on your writing like I am, the stress can get to you.'”

Traveling Salesman (Roy Blount, Jr. in Garden & Gun): If you want to have a good giggle about the very ridiculousness that is selling books for a living, take a minute with this Roy Blount, Jr. piece.

 

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at What Makes Proposals Rise to the Top of the Stack

How to Write a Book Proposal to Get a Publisher

I’m very happy to have Chad Allen on the blog today to talk to us about how he reviews proposals and acquires books. He’s also going to give us an inside look at how editors pitch books to their own teams (because yes, every editor has to learn the art of the pitch, too!). 

Chad is a writer, editor, and creativity coach. He’s also the creator of Book Proposal Academy, an online course that helps nonfiction writers craft winning book proposals. He serves as an editorial director for Baker Publishing Group, an independently owned faith-based publisher in Grand Rapids, Michigan. You’ll find him blogging at www.chadrallen.com.

Over to you, Chad!

This year I will review well over a hundred book proposals, and my personal goal is to acquire at least fifteen high-quality original books within the year.

Just because I present a book in pub board does not mean I’ll acquire it because other publishers will also be pursuing it. Assuming a 50 percent success rate, I need to pick about 30 books to bring to pub board. Other editors may review hundreds of book proposals and have a goal of acquiring more or fewer books, but at least in trade publishing I doubt the math I’ve laid out here changes much from house to house or editor to editor.

We review a humongous number of book proposals and try to acquire a fraction of them.

So how can a writer make sure their book proposal rises to the top of the stack? In this article I’m going to share exactly how I review a book proposal and how you the writer can make sure I keep reading. That should be the goal, by the way: keep us reading. Here we go:

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A 2-Minute Retreat for Writers

guided meditation for writers with anxiety

But first, the publishing stories worth reading this week:

6 Strategies for Getting Your Book Published (Chad R. Allen): This is a must-read post for nonfiction writers. Because it’s true: there is a very set, step-by-step formula for getting a book deal. That’s not to say the steps are easy, but if you stick with it and follow Chad’s advice, you will see agents and editors come a’knockin’!

20 Signs You’re the Biggest Book Nerd in Your Friend Group (Jen Harper on BarnesandNoble.com): “So you think you may be the biggest book nerd in your squad? We’re here to help you confirm it.” I have to say, none of these applied to me. I also have to say: that’s a complete and utter lie. I am guilty, guilty, guilty.

The Top 4 Secrets to Keep Book Sales High Post-Launch (Chad Cannon): “One of the biggest misbeliefs I see in the publishing world is that you can push a book into the marketplace with an awesome launch plan…and then just call it done. The reality? Marketing is never done.”

100 Must-Read Books About Books (Margaret Aldrich for Book Riot): If you love to read books about books (me, me, me!), you need this list. And if you’re fascinated by design and book covers, take a peek, too. Do you see how the cover and title for The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is so similar to the cover and title of the big bestseller in the category, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society? THAT is how you signal to readers that if they liked that book, they’ll like this one, too. And it works. Broken Wheel was just added to my to-read list.

Everyone’s Getting Into Video. Should You? (Jane Friedman on Writer Unboxed): “Unless you’ve been garreted away working on the Great American Novel—and maybe you have!—you’ve probably noticed that video is becoming a big deal…As a writer, should you care? And if you’re interested, what’s next?”

A Two-Minute Retreat for Writers (& A Book Deal Announcement!)

meditation for writers and bloggers with anxiety

A writer’s life is filled with anxieties. Really, the life of anyone who puts their work out into the world is filled with anxieties. Will people like it? Is it any good? Will it succeed? Will it have impact? Should you shred it right now because, oh wow, this is terrible?

I’m a firm believer that 80% of the creative battle is won in the mind. I see it all the time—the most successful authors have fought those show-up-and-just-do-it battles early in their careers, and they’ve made peace with the fact that their work isn’t for everyone.

Even some of my sweetest, softest-hearted authors will laugh about how you can’t please everyone on the Internet. And if you can’t please the Internet masses, you sure as heck can’t please everyone in publishing.

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How to Get a Traditional Book Deal if You’ve Self-Published

how to get a traditional book deal if you've already self published

I hope you all had a chance to catch a few lessons from the Profitable Blogging Summit last week! I was following along from the beach in Punta Cana while working on new and experimental kinds of sun poisoning. (Seriously. My skin hates me right now. And yes, yes, I should know better. I have already given myself many demerits.)

I love answering questions at summits and conferences, but the difficult part is that I have to answer questions in 30-60 second spurts. And anyone who knows me knows that I do not excel at brevity. I don’t think I’ve ever had anything but a 6-part answer to a question.

But it’s not because I like to hear myself talk! (I actually very much think my voice sounds ridiculous when recorded.) It’s that publishing is very complex and has so many facets, exceptions, and tangents that there’s no way to provide an honest, hard-and-fast rule about anything.

So today I wanted to give you guys the long, 4-part answer to one of the questions Kirsten asked me: What does it take for a self-published author to get a traditional book deal?

When we chatted about this on camera, I grabbed my copy of The Joy of Less to illustrate a shining example of one author who successfully went from self-published to traditionally published.

The Joy of Less had sold 70,000 copies in just over 4 years by the time I took it on, so clearly Francine had created an incredibly successful and powerful book on her own. But she was ready to see her book in bookstores both nationwide and worldwide. And luckily, we were able to place the book with Chronicle, a wonderful publisher, as well as sell foreign rights in 17 countries.

And because I love ya, I’m going to be giving away 2 free copies of the book to 2 lucky readers today!

The joy of less francine jay book deal

The new edition is gorgeously redesigned, streamlined, and a great example of how a self-published book can live a whole new life with the help of a traditional publisher. I think you’ll love holding it, reading it, and sharing it with other clutterbugs in your life!

To enter to win a free copy of The Joy of Less, scroll down to the bottom of this post!

In the meantime, let me take a big breath and better explain how the self-pubbed to traditional-pubbed process works:

As we all know, the job of an agent or acquiring editor is to make an educated guess about how a book will perform in the marketplace. We all have our own hunches about how marketable a concept is, how well an author’s platform will translate into sales, and how much readers, reviewers, and the press will like the book.

That’s what our jobs come down to: making bets based on hunches. If we make good bets and take on good projects, we do well. If an editor signs a breakout author, she can start getting promoted up the ladder as she works on the author’s next (hopefully as successful!) books. If an agent signs a breakout author, she can negotiate an even better deal for the author’s second book, and then her third and fourth book after that. That’s the part that thrills us to our cores: building lasting careers for authors we admire.

But any agent and editor will also tell you that it’s nearly impossible to predict with total accuracy whether a book will do well in the marketplace. With one big exception: self-published books.

Because self-published books have already had their debut in the marketplace, editors and agents will know exactly what to expect, and they’ll have many more data points when they run their P&Ls.

This can be a great thing if you have a highly successful self-published book, because you’ll be able to show editors and agents that investing time and resources in you will be fairly low risk. But it can also make self-published books with middling sales look like an especially high risk.

So the very first thing I ask myself when assessing a self-published book is:

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