Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Storymakers Conference 2011 Recap: Agent Sara Megibow

Sara Megibow is an associate agent with Nelson Literary Agency in Denver, Colorado. NLA's client list is VERY impressive, so advice received from Sara and agency President Kristin Nelson (her blog is one of the best out there) is worth its weight in gold!

The first thing I want to say about Sara is that she has a twin out there—she reminded me of my husband's sister, Leanne. I know that doesn't mean much, until I tell you that my sister-in-law is the most approachable, do-anything-for-you, WARM person in the whole state of Texas.  Sara is the type of person you want to sit next to at Thanksgiving dinner. 

Sara's warmth, however, didn't distract from her professionalism. It is apparent that she is extremely wise about the business side of book-making. In fact, one of the best parts of the presentation was when Sara described to us "the bench." The bench is a delightfully happy, always-sunshiny place where writers and their art reside. Butterflies and warm breezes swarm the place. Everything is safe at the bench, and at the bench, your art always succeeds. However, if you want to see your book published someday, you're eventually going to have to hop off the bench, take other people's advice, and acquire a thick skin. Book publishing is a business—and businesses are about making money. If a writer isn't willing to put forth the work and effort required to make her book thrive in the business, then she probably needs to head back to the bench. (And that's okay—it's a happy, safe place!)

More short bits of wisdom from Sara:

  1. Before you begin the query process, your book should be 99 ½ % ready to go. Sara sees way too many unpolished MS.
  2. When querying, if you follow the rules, you're already ahead of the game. Each literary agent has specific submission guidelines and requirements, and you'd be surprised at how many people ignore them. Follow the guidelines, and you're already rising above the slush.
  3. Having an author website and blog is ESSENTIAL in today's market. If agents like something you've submitted, they might cyber-stalk you. Give them something to find!
  4. When Sara reads a first chapter, the first red flag of "bad writing" to her is the data-dump. Avoid it. (And feel free to pronounce "data" with either the short or long "a" sound.)
  5. Authors need to know their genre and market. If Sara were to name off a list of authors in your genre, you should know exactly who she's talking about.
Thank you, Sara, for sharing with us! Sara Megibow knows the business and wants to help budding authors thrive. Were you in Sara's class? If so, what did you find most helpful?


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Storymakers Conference 2011 Recap: Agent Becca Stumpf’s Breakout Session

Becca Stumpf's breakout session was one of the first classes I attended at this year's LDS Storymakers Conference, and she certainly got the morning off to a bright start! Becca is an agent with Prospect Agency in New York. One of the things I liked best about Becca was her enthusiasm. She was animated, funny, and full of smiles. (She also drank Fiji bottled water—one of my favorites. It's so refreshing! Seriously, try it!) J She started off telling us that she adores being a "book nerd" for a living. She also had one of the funniest lines of the conference! In a slight slip of the tongue during her presentation, she said "I awesome" instead of "it's awesome", and everyone had a good laugh. It just confirmed how approachable Becca is! J

Now for the highlights! Here are helpful hints for writers from Becca's class:

  1. Writers need to be professional on their blogs and in their tweets. It isn't appropriate to talk about your submission process in detail and doing so could cause a deal to fail. I think its good advice to be respectful of agents' behind-the-scenes work and the whole submission process. Let's be mindful of our internet presence!
  2. Becca said she doesn't think there is a certain time of year (or even specific months) when she receives more queries than normal. So don't worry about avoiding a "query season"!
  3. In your query letter, definitely include how you came to query a particular agent. A little personalization goes a long way. Plus, an agent wants to know why you think she or he would be a good fit.
  4. Becca confirmed what I'd heard from other agents: she does all her query and requested manuscript reading after hours. Let's make it easier for them by keeping our queries clear and concise. Master that one-line hook!
  5. Becca also gave a GREAT explanation as to why writers sometimes (often) receive a form rejection from an agent, even when the process has gotten all the way to a full manuscript request. Form rejections are disappointing, but Becca encouraged us to look at them in this light: If Becca were to write a personalized letter to an author with the specifics on why she had decided to pass on their MS, she may be compromising the integrity of that author's work/art. Because, at some point, somebody is going to love your story the way it is, or want to publish it with their own suggested changes. So, if you receive a form rejection, keep up the search for the ONE!

Becca's class was informative, fun, and encouraging. She should definitely be on your list of professional, approachable agents. Thank you, Becca, for your peek into the publishing world!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Storymakers 2011 recap: Rachelle Christensen’s BRILLIANT book promo idea

One of the most interesting breakouts I attended at this year's LDStorymakers Writing Conference was author Rachelle Christensen's class on Blog Tours and Book Promotions. She had an AMAZING idea for a book promotion that she has graciously allowed me to post about here. When Rachelle did this promotion for her book, Wrong Number, it went out of stock on Amazon in two hours and sent her Bestseller's ranking on Amazon skyrocketing!

Prior to the email promotion, Rachelle contacted her friends, family, and colleagues, asking them if they'd be willing to donate a free downloadable gift to her promo-cause. In return, the contributors would receive name recognition advertising (and therefore promotion) for their products to the literally thousands of people that were to receive Rachelle's email blast. Rachelle was able to gather five or so free downloadable gifts. (Look here for Rachelle's list.)

Side note: Your gift ideas are limitless--depending on what your friends contribute--but could include: craft patterns and instructions, memberships, songs, PDFs, etc. I'd definitely take into consideration your book's target audience when selecting your free gifts.  Also remember that the gifts need to be free downloadable files, not promises to do something for someone—because you're hoping that this email will blast and go out to hundreds (thousands!) of people.

Rachelle compiled these free gifts into one simple email that was ready to go out the day the promo occurred. Then on the day of the promo, she sent out an email to her contacts, inviting them to purchase her book, Wrong Number, on Amazon THAT DAY and in return, receive the email with all the wonderful and free downloadable gifts. Then, of course, she encouraged her contacts to send out her initial email to their contacts, causing it to snowball into many and many inboxes, and so forth and so on, until HUNDREDS of people flocked to Amazon to buy her book AND receive the downloadable gift email from Rachelle.

Rachelle's book flew through the sales ranks, (which pleased her publisher,) and provided a "win-win" situation for everyone involved. Brilliant.

Thanks, Rachelle, for letting me share!  I hope to one day try this out myself! In the meantime, I'll be checking out Wrong Number, and reading more from Rachelle at rachellewrites.blogspot.com.

Also, check back tomorrow for another great tip for writers from the LDStorymakers conference!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Hi! I’m new here…

This is my first post on my new blog and I'm so enthusiastic!  I know, I know, I'm arriving pretty late to the game, but I have good reason, I promise!  You see, I've known for years that blogging was an integral part of a writer's life, and that eventually I'd have one.  (A blog, not a life, although I do need to get a life too.)  But until now, I've spent all the free time I have (which anyone who has hung around a toddler for 5 minutes knows isn't much) working on my craft.  I figured there was no point having a blog about writing if I didn't have a product worth talking about! 
Now I'm at the point where I'm semi-excited about my book, MAJORLY excited about writing, and I want to share my experiences.  Most importantly, I want to connect with YOU!   I have a ton of really helpful writing tips and tricks coming up. (Seriously, I've collected over 100 website bookmarks over the past couple of years—just waiting for a post!)  So follow me, if you like, and make your writing soar!

Thanks so much for stopping by! I can't wait to get to know you better!