If you want to publish your book, here are the steps you should follow to assess your work’s potential, then research and pitch editors and agents.
In my many years of critiquing queries, I see the same weaknesses again and again. Here are the biggest issues that afflict novel queries and how you can fix them.
When submitting your short form literature to a magazine or journal, your cover letter is often the first impression an editor sees. It serves as an introduction to your thoughtfully crafted art. As such, it is significant, but it shouldn’t be intimidating or even take much of your time to write.
Everyone has a meaningful story to tell, but not everyone’s story (or writing) is going to deserve a commercial publishing deal. Here are the most common problems I encounter in memoir pitches and manuscripts.
Note from Jane: I’m currently offering an interactive course on nonfiction book proposals; late registration is possible. Writing a nonfiction book proposal—a good one—requires not only sharp clarity about your idea, but also how that idea, in book form, is relevant and unique in today’s market. You’ll have a much easier time writing your proposal […]
Everything you need to know to start writing a book proposal for your nonfiction book.
Some agents and editors say that personalizing a query letter can backfire. Others say the opposite—that it’s mandatory. What should you do?
A detailed look at how NetGalley’s Stuart Evers and Myfanwy Collins went from manuscript to publication, with marketing and PR advice.
How to Spot Toxic Feedback: 7 Signs That the Writing Advice You’re Getting May Do More Harm Than Good
If you recognize the following characteristics in the critiques of your work, it may not just be inept—it may, in fact, be toxic.
Turns out there is only one universal rule of plot, and it goes back to what Joseph Campbell uncovered: every single story worth telling is about transformation via trials.
Half of writers are plotters, and the other half are pantsers. One is not the right way or the wrong way; there is only the way that works best for you.
How do great authors develop stunning narratives, break from tradition, and advance the form of their fiction? They take whatever basic ideas they’ve got, then move them away from the typical.
Learn the difference between all ready/already, altogether/all together, all right/alright, any time/anytime, anyway/any way.
By far the most common entry-level mistake in the writing game, the thing that can get a perfectly good story rejected by an editor on the first page, is overwriting.
No pressure, but the opening of your book is the gatekeeper in determining whether your novel will sell. If your opening is weak, it won’t matter if chapter two is a masterpiece. Editors and agents and booksellers and librarians and readers will stop reading before they get there.
Misconceptions about getting started often hold new writers back. You may think that to be successful as a freelance writer, you need a J-school degree, an impressive database of editorial contacts, and a truckload of supplies. Not so—read on to learn the most common myths that can sabotage you before you start.
You need to write a memoir—except the mere thought floods you with anxiety. You’ve got decades of memories; where would you even start? Lists to the rescue!
For new writers, throwing in a few combat scenes can seem like an easy way to add some excitement to a novel, but the reality is that violence can be incredibly difficult to pull off effectively.
All three paths to producing emotional responses in readers are valid, but all three have pitfalls and can fail to work. To successfully use each, it’s necessary to understand why each is effective when it is.
If you’ve given up on the self-publishing route and want to try traditional publishing, then there are several approaches you can take to interest agents.
In this post I regularly update the best resources I know of related to learning to publish an ebook, finding the right distributors and services, and staying on top of changes in the industry.
Established writers can’t often—and probably shouldn’t—publish far outside of their area of expertise. It’s a fast way to alienate your existing fan base. But crowdfunding allows you to experiment outside of your genre for a project you want to see out in the world.
In 2015, Kindle Press published about 90 novels. By the end of 2016, it had published a total of 218 books—all chosen through the Kindle Scout program.
Pronoun works with independent authors to distribute their ebooks to the five major online retailers: Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Google Play. Pronoun charges authors nothing upfront, and doesn’t take a cut of ebook sales either.
There are advantages to selling ebooks only through Amazon, and makes most sense for authors who are just starting out or who are relatively unknown.
There is one secret ingredient to crafting a novel that readers will read from beginning to end. All the other elements are important and necessary, but they play supporting roles to this one.
Every reader starts a story cold, and you want to warm the reader up to your story as quickly as possible. Learn proven techniques for story openings.
A round-up of the best and most popular advice on writing craft and technique I’ve featured since 2010.
Ultimately, concept is far less important than character when it comes to determining the overall quality of your story, but your audience is attracted to your story based on your concept alone. Does your concept have what it takes to draw people in?
Some stories require greater scope, more voices, or a different context than can be delivered through the eyes of one protagonist. When you find this to be the case, consider using multiple viewpoints. However, you must think about several factors before launching into this greater undertaking.
But being able to truly see if you’ve been successful in writing a compelling work requires objectivity and distance than can be hard to achieve on your own—and this is where a professional editor comes in.
If you have a book idea or manuscript, one of your first questions is probably: How do I find a publisher? Here are the most popular, essential resources.
If I could teach only one key to great writing, it would be this: Make every word count. Recognize the power of a single, well-chosen word. Trust it to do its work. As a rule, the more economically you use language, the more powerfully you will deliver your message.
Every action in your novel should be justified by the intersection of setting, context, pursuit, and characterization. They all need to make sense. They all need to fit. If you have to explain why something just happened, you’re telling the story backward.
This post was originally published in 2014; it is regularly updated with new information. If you’re seeking one-on-one help with queries, I offer a critique service. The stand-alone query letter has one purpose, and one purpose only: to seduce the agent or editor into reading or requesting your work. The query letter is so much of a […]
I’m writing monthly for the IngramSpark blog, which is focused on the concerns of self-publishing authors and small presses.
Author and editor Jessica Strawser offers guidance on how to write through illness, grief, and other major life events.
Author Jennifer Louden offers five tips for developing and strengthening your writer’s voice.
Author and writing expert Barbara Baig discusses the lessons about deliberate practice that writers might take away from Anders Ericsson’s book Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise.
As a product of the human brain, writing is particularly influenced by emotions, moods, and worldviews. Learn how to create a mindset conducive to writing.
Get links to my latest interviews and Q&A sessions where I discuss the publishing industry as well as marketing and promotion.
Stuart Horwitz explains how you can complete your book in three drafts: the messy draft, the method draft, and the polished draft.
Award-winning author Jane K. Cleland explains how to implement the slow reveal to add suspense to your writing.
A plot planner enables you to keep the larger picture of your story in full view as you concentrate on writing individual scenes.
For a love scene to move readers, it must embody the principle of restraint—in dialogue, in description, and in the characters’ actions.
Author Emily Grosvenor explains how she has constructed a Kickstarter campaign for her children’s book, Tessalation!
Author Jay Swanson explains how to find and work with cover artists.
Learn how to use Kindle Scout as part of a pre-release marketing strategy for a self-published book.
Editor and writing coach Kristen Kieffer discusses how to get the best out of a beta-reader experience.
Memoirist Benjamin Vogt discusses how evoking sensory details in writing can banish a writer’s fears.