Special Marketing Workshop for New and Aspiring Authors

Aside from the ability to write great stuff, these days the most important skill a writer must have is the ability to promote.

You need to know the best way to get your manuscript to the attention of editors and agents.  And because publishers now leave so much publicity in the hands of the author, you have to hit the ground running with your own promotion efforts as soon as your book is accepted.

Are you ready?

I’ve prepared a special one-night workshop to give new and aspiring authors the innovative promotion skills they’ll need:

Marketing Outside of the BoxBringing Your Book to Life and Keeping it Alive, a workshop with author Marie Lamba
When: Thursday, October 7th at 6 p.m.
Where: The Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency Office, 31 East 32nd St,  New York, NY
Cost: $150, registration limited
For more info or to register: Call 212-481-8484 ext. 362 and leave your name and number

This workshop will have you selling your manuscripts and your published books like a seasoned pro. I’ll be sharing my most effective low-to-no-cost publicity techniques, from unorthodox (and minor rule breaking) ways to rise above the slush pile, to great tips for nailing free national press.

I’ve worked on the publishing side as an editor and as a book promotions manager.  I’ve paid my dues as a public relations writer.  And I’ve experienced just how tough it can be for a debut author with an “orphaned” title destined for obscurity. People told me a lone author couldn’t make a difference in the success or failure of a book.  I chose not to believe them.  Instead I worked tirelessly, came up with numerous fresh ways to promote by combining new technology and traditional wisdom, and I definitely did make a difference. Even several years after publication, What I Meant… is still finding new readers and going into reprints.

You can make a difference in your own career too.  So take heart!

Topics to be covered in this workshop include…
BRINGING YOUR BOOK TO LIFE:

– Nail the description of what you are selling
– Forget the traditional synopsis…how to shape one that gets to the heart of your work
– Form your one-minute pitch
– Make sure your manuscript is perfect before submitting, but not too perfect…
– How to jump the line when submitting
– How to speed up response times to your work

– Ways to break down the door at houses closed to unagented submissions

– How to rise above the slush and stand out
– Being the consummate professional

This workshop will also include…
YOU’VE GOT A BOOK DEAL! — HOW TO KEEP THAT BOOK ALIVE THROUGH PROMOTION:

What you can and can’t expect from your publisher
– How to become your own super-charged publicist – for free!
– Website…No money? Completely ignorant? No problem!
– Start early to think big – and nab national attention

– Provide your own press releases and feature stories to the media
– Innovative ways to locate and reach your audience
– Why there’s no such thing as a bad book signing, if you do it right…
– How family and friends can create a groundswell of support
– Become the expert – and market through this!
– My best out of the box idea…What can be yours?
– Power in numbers – should you create a marketing partnership?
– How to do all this and still be true to yourself

Hope you can join us on October 7th for this special event!

Authors TP the BEA

Simmons and Tafoya - up to no good

Okay, this is too hilarious not to share.  We’ve all heard the story of the author who followed the agent into the bathroom at a conference and slipped a manuscript under the agent’s stall. Well, at this year’s BEA conference a group of authors decided to take this one step lower.

Authors who are members of the Liars Club (a group that I’m a proud member of) thought they’d have some fun toilet papering the BEA bathrooms with rolls they had custom printed with their group’s logo and website.  Also, napkins printed with the group’s info and clever pick up lines like “Is that a two-book deal in your pocket?” were slipped beneath cocktails and coffee cups at several BEA events.

Participating in the shenanigans were authors Kelly Simmons (Standing Still, and upcoming The Bird House, Washington Sq. Press), Merry Jones (Zoe Hayes mysteries including The Borrowed and Blue Murders, St. Martin’s Minotaur), Dennis Tafoya (Dope Thief, and upcoming Wolves of Fairmont Park, St. Martin’s Minotaur), and New York Times bestseller Jonathan Maberry (Dragon Factory, St. Martin’s, and upcoming Rot and Ruin, Simon & Schuster).

Simmons, Tafoya and Jones lurking

The Liars Club is a group of 13 authors who basically lie for a living, and who work together to share their work and their love of writing. “We thought this would be a hilarious way to get our group name out there,” said Simmons, the TP criminal mastermind. “Of course it didn’t work out exactly as we’d planned.  First of all the lines to the women’s rooms were so long, that mostly we had to place the rolls in the men’s rooms.  Women use more TP than men, so this bothered me from a marketing standpoint…”

“It all felt very cloak and dagger,” said Jones. “Napkin-wise, we ultimately voted on the Starbucks napkin stand as having the most traffic.  We lingered a bit, trying to be cool, waiting until no one was around, then artfully fanned out the napkins there. But no one arrested us. Hey, we weren’t stealing, we were giving.”

“We got some interesting reactions,” said Tafoya. “One literary agent, seeing us taking pictures of the mayhem with the TP, said ‘Of all things to document, I can’t believe they are photographing the bathroom!’  I got the feeling he thought we were tourists.”

There was one particularly dicey moment when Simmons unwrapped a roll and shrieked “Oh no! It’s only one ply!”  Mostly, though, their prank went well, and was taken in good stride, with some of the TP getting stuck to conference attendees’ shoes.

“The whole experience was a riot,” said Maberry.  “Now we have to wonder how we’ll top this next year.  Maybe Liars Club hairspray and mouthwash near the sinks?”

Is Maberry plotting the next caper?

My One Marketing Tip

On the Liars Club site, a series of answers to burning questions about writing and publishing continues today with Burning Question #2: What one marketing tip would you share with a new author? Each day, a different Liar will offer a response.  I’m cross-posting here, but check out http:liarsclubphilly.com daily for all the author’s responses!  Here’s my answer:

Workshops. Invent and do workshops. That’s my big red-hot tip.

See, folks just don’t come out to signings at bookstores like they used to. They’re busy. They forget. They have to make a lasagna. Whatever. And there are several gajillion books coming out every second, so you need a way to stand out, and to get folks away from their lasagna to you for at least a while.

My first novel WHAT I MEANT… is for the teen market.  Picture book and middle reader authors have it easier, because elementary schools have the bucks to bring authors in to speak and to sell.  Those folks can get anywhere from $500 to a few grand to spend an afternoon with the kids, and the PTA foots the bill, and the parents send in checks to pay for the books, and it’s all good. But when you’re a YA author? Not so much. Middle schools and high schools usually don’t budget for appearances. Authors of adult fiction and non-fiction face the same dilemma.

Which brings me back to workshops.  I knew my market: teens.  And I knew that teens were notoriously busy.  And that they have all these crazy obligations with school, and trying to impress colleges and whatnot. So I needed to find a way to fit into their lives. To give them something they could use and enjoy…plus sell my books too.

Since I’m also a Girl Scout leader, I knew that teen scouts need to earn a certain number of badges for their Silver and their Gold awards. I also knew that these badges could take several months to complete. And there’s this reading badge. Hm…

So I’ve developed my So What’s the Story? workshop that earns scouts the badge in just 2 hours. I made sure it was fun and interesting, and that I’d give participants a taste of my book through a series of mini readings that corresponded with activities we had to do. Each scout gets a copy of my novel, and at the end, I sign them.  It’s been a huge hit, and sometimes I get writer’s cramp from signing as many as 100 books at a shot! To date, I’ve easily sold over 1,000 books this way, and I’ve also cultivated relationships with over 1,000 teen readers.

I encourage any author to think hard about the audience of his or her book. And what does that audience NEED?  Sometimes entertainment is what your audience craves.  If you write memoirs, can you teach senior citizens how to write their own? Is your heroine a huge pasta fan? How about a cooking lesson/book reading package, with your book included in the package price?  Be inventive and creative.

Sometimes your audience needs to fulfill certain requirements.  Have an inspiring story? Corporations hire motivational speakers. Have an unusual skill that is highlighted in your writing? Different associations require continuing education credits from professionals in order for them to keep their licenses. Even Landscape Architects must do this. Teachers too.  Can you find out the requirements of these continuing ed credits, and work with an association to meet their needs through your specially tailored workshop? And can you include a copy of your book in the fee?

Of course you can!  Your audience gets what they need. You sell your books.

Win-win all around.

Burning Questions about Writing and Publishing

Hot tip: there is a new series of posts over at the Philly Liars Club site, which cover burning questions about publishing and writing. Over the next few weeks, the group’s 13 authors will answer a question posed to them, so you should check back there frequently (or subscribe to that site) to see what they have to say.  As a member of their group, I’ve kicked off their series, and I’m also including my post here, too. But be sure to check in with the Liars to see what their other fab authors say about this same question…

Burning Question #1: What one thing do I wish I knew before publishing my first book or article?

That crap happens. Honestly, every published writer I’ve spoken to has a story about how they have gotten the nasty end of the stick. This shouldn’t be such a big surprise, but somehow it is. This is partly because authors rarely talk about these nightmares openly. It’s the kind of thing we whisper to each other when swapping horror stories with a colleague. And I think this is a disservice to our fellow writers, who really should be better prepared for their future.

Writing is such a personal business. Especially with fiction. Your book is your baby in a way. You invest so much into it. You love it.  Then you have an editor who loves it. And you have this great relationship with your editor. Yeah, it’s business, but you feel really close to your editor, and you know that she will fight for your book till the end.

So, uh, how come there are so many authors with “crap happens, and it happened to me” stories? Because your book may be your baby, but in the world of publishing, nobody cares. It’s just a commodity. Not even your editor cares. Well, she does to a point, but I can promise you she cares about her job and her paycheck more. So books get accepted and then get canceled. Books come out and a publisher has already lost interest in them, so there is no publicity or support. Future books that you write may or may not be picked up by the publisher/editor who “loved” your last novel. And so it goes. It all definitely feels like a betrayal of sorts, but as Donald Trump says, “It’s nothing personal. It’s just business.”

I know, it sounds dire. But before you impale yourself on your fountain pen, think of how empowering this information can be.  Just knowing that crap happens and that it will probably happen to you should make your dealings more businesslike.  Don’t trust that an editor has talked up your book with the marketing committee, get over there and talk with them yourself.  Don’t be complacent and believe that since a publisher has accepted your book that your work is done. Assume that the rug will be ripped out from beneath you at any moment and work your ass off to promote the work you have gotten accepted, to relate to your readers and build a fan base, and to write an even better next book.  Always have projects going.  Dude, it’s survival. It’s business. And it’ll serve you well.

Sadly I’ve seen many a talented author get so distraught by what has happened to them in the publishing business that they’ve given up writing completely.  It’s killed the joy for them, and they just can’t pursue their craft anymore. It nearly happened to me. Having a book that was in final copy edits canceled, along with a host of other serious crap occurring at the same time, nearly did me in. I’m an extremely positive person, but even I felt beyond low. The only way I got through was to fight back hard promoting my book like crazy. And by sinking my teeth into more novels.

I’m a different writer now.  Paperback canceled? Okay. Passed on new novel? Fine. I’m not pleased, but I’m not devastated either. I’m too busy looking for the business relationship that will benefit my writing the most, and I’m too busy being the best writer I can be.

And I’m still loving what I do.

Guest Author on Writing Blog

Just a quick post to let you know that  an interview with me is currently up on Michael Ventrella’s blog, which you can reach by clicking here.  Michael is a fantasy YA author of titles including The Axes of Evil, and Arch Enemies (Double Dragon Publishing).

His blog features a good number of interviews with authors, and these focus on writing tips and advice.  I can tell you he asks some thought-provoking questions. How do I write my books? What advice can I offer aspiring authors that I wish someone had given me? What is the biggest mistake that I see aspiring authors make? Phew.

If you get a chance, check out his books, his interview of me, and the interviews he has there of other authors. Informative!

And thanks to Michael for inviting me over.

Marketing Outside of the Box

I recently gave a presentation to the Bucks County Romance Writers group about “Marketing Outside of the Box: Bringing your Book to Life and Keeping it Alive,” and it stirred up some common misconceptions about just what an author can and can’t do to promote her book.  Mainly, there is a pervasive belief that promotion is entirely up to the publisher, and the actions of the author can make no difference one way or the other in the success of a novel.

Okay, I think that used to be true to some extent. But these days a few things have changed.  First of all, all publishers are doing less and less for their authors. They tend to put their marketing muscle and dollars behind that huge book at their house that got the big advance…mainly because they don’t want to lose their shirts on it.  And for the rest of the books? Well….  You get in their catalog. Advanced Reader Copies get sent out for reviews. Um, and? Well, good luck to you!

I equate it to throwing spaghetti onto the wall and seeing which bits stick.  If a book gets a starred review and happens to win a major award, then cool.  Otherwise, push it aside for the next batch a mere 3 months later.  But if a book is beautiful enough for a company to accept it and to spend a year editing and producing it, isn’t it worth putting a bit more effort into? And if an author has poured her heart and soul into that work, isn’t it worth the author’s time to do whatever she can to be sure that the book doesn’t go quietly into the night?

Publishers are now banking on just that.  Why waste their precious resources on things like booking signings and sending out press, when the author could do that herself? Clever, right?  Now this isn’t exactly a spoken policy, and authors don’t all do this, but I think if you have a book out, or coming out, you need the whole eyes wide open approach, and you need to get busy.

You will have to work with your publisher to let them know what you’re doing.  At the outset, you should have a frank talk with your publicist at your publishing house about what you would like to handle, and how to do it without stepping on toes, or repeating what they do. You might find at first some resistance to having you handle some things, but since they aren’t handling them, what the heck? I think they are afraid that some authors may represent themselves badly, but once you show that you are professional and courteous, and once they have moved on to the next season’s lists, you’ll probably see that they are glad of what you are doing, and will be happy to get occasional “keep you in the loop” emails about what’s going on.

There’s a notion out there that you should take a good part or at least some of your advance and hire a publicist with it to get the word out. Nice. But what if you actually need the money for like, say, living? And what can you really get with that money that you can’t provide yourself?

photo by Pat Achilles cropped

photo by Pat Achilles

I decided I could promote WHAT I MEANT… on my own, and I have done this quite successfully at almost zero cost. Yeah, it takes tons of time, but I’d already spent tons of time writing the thing, right? And I have two things that a publicist does not: 1. Absolute passion for my book.  Remember, no one (not even your mother) will love your book the way that you do, and be driven to promote it the way you will; and 2. I have unlimited access to the author!  I can quote her in releases and features, book her at appearances, and connect her with readers in a positive way.

Just a few years ago, having passion and author access wasn’t enough.  You needed contacts. You needed a huge budget to print up ad materials, posters, bookmarks. You needed to go out on tour. You needed to cozy up to book reviewers.  Today, contacts in the media are readily found online. Okay, I’m not talking Oprah, I’m talking newspaper folk, radio folk, bloggers, book reviewers, etc.  Easy to find. Easy to send a personal note to, or a feature story to about an upcoming signing (with images of yourself and your book cover attached, of course).

And these days, it’s also easy to book signings yourself.  I’ve done SO many signings over the past few years, and I’ve booked every single one myself. Forget the cold call. Personally go to every bookstore within driving range, and introduce yourself, drop off info on your book (which you have printed up beautifully on your computer), and chat with the manager, asking if they would like to do a signing with you.   I’m sure if you were willing to travel, you could email stores in different areas and book a string of signings that way, and ta-da! You’re on tour.  This will cost you in terms of travel expenses, of course.  Remember that independent bookstores will be your most ardent supporters, so be sure to build your relationships with them (and shop at indies, and include a link to indiebound.org on your website so folks can buy your book through them!).

I tell booksellers that I will send out press to area media about the event, and wow, are they happy to hear that.  A few weeks before any signing, I create a nice feature story about the event and my novel, and send it out with pix. I ALWAYS get coverage. So if you don’t know how to format and write a press release, a public service announcement and a feature story, learn. Now.  The library has books that will show you how.

With color printers, you can make your own publicity info.  Printing bookmarks through a company is pretty cheap to do, but I haven’t done this.  Personally, I’ve never bought a book because I’ve gotten a bookmark…  I’ve created great signs on my computer and brought the file to Staples, and had them create large posters, mounted on foam core, that I display on an easel at my events.  This is all nickle and dime stuff, folks.

As you market, you need to think of who your audience is, what is your book’s angle, and how do you reach your audience in an unorthodox way?  You don’t want to be a spammer, or to spend a fortune creating junk mail that ends up in the circular file. My approach is to be the anti-spammer, meaning that I make an effort to contact people personally. And I use their name in my note. It takes a lot of time, but I don’t care. I’m asking for their time when they read a note from me, aren’t I? It’s old school, and that makes it retro and charming.

Author J. A. Konrath is a gifted promoter with a personal touch. His website (which he’s changed since I first found it) is loaded with advice on how to personally make a difference in the life of your book, especially if you follow the link to his tips page.  Start with Self Promotion for Authors Tip 6 by clicking here, and read on from there, going to more tips at the bottom of this page. His ideas are wise and witty and absolutely on target.

Aside from making personal contacts, another “outside of the box” way I found to reach my audience of teen readers is through workshops that I offer them to help teen scouts earn badges they need for important awards like the gold award.  It’s been unbelievably successful, and I’m in reprint again!  Because they were unusual, my workshops were also featured in Publisher’s Weekly’s Children’s Bookshelf and at shelfawareness.com, so remember that a quirky promotion can be news in itself.

Since my book features a biracial character who is half Indian, I contacted the international publication of India Abroad, and they ran a huge cover story about it.  I also contacted lots of great people who write about the mixed race experience, and they were really responsive. I was featured at AsiansofMixedRace.com, did a podcast with Mixed Chicks Chat, and in the UK, WHAT I MEANT… was a featured book on the site Intermix.com.uk.  I also contacted librarians via email who were in areas with high concentrations of Indian populations. The best part of all this has been the personal relationships that I’ve built with all of these talented and wonderful people and their organizations.  In the end it’s not just about selling a product, it’s about becoming a part of a community. You are building a future in the book-reading world.

So, what angles are in your book? What organizations out there would be interested? Can you write for their newsletter or blog, relating your personal experiences that tie into your book? Can you create a great presentation for their chapter meetings? Give an inspiring speech at their conventions? Give an honest piece of yourself to your readership, and they will respond to you.

This post would be woefully remiss if I didn’t mention a bunch of on-line stuff.  First of all, your website. You have to have one. That’s all there is to it.  But you can do what I’ve done and easily make your blog your website. It does all I want it to do, plus I can control it myself, plus it’s FREE! Then if you purchase your domain from a site like bluehost.com, they have a free redirect service. In my case, everyone who types http://www.marielamba.com arrives here. Can’t get any cheaper and easier than that, folks.

You have to get onto facebook.com.  The best feature on this is the event invite.  Create invites for all of your signings and appearances, and invite folks.  Pimp up your invite with added pix, links, and remember that once someone rsvp’s, they can then invite all their friends to the event too.  This has worked out amazingly, especially when I tell bookstores with facebook pages to do this.  My last event was able to send out over 500 invites!  A few days before the actual event, you can go to the invite page and message all invited with a cheerful reminder note.

Twitter.com can work in tandem with your invites, and press, etc.  Build up your follow list with librarians, booksellers, publishers, editors, reviewers, readers.  Then post on twitter links to your facebook events, or any online press you get.  Keep it short. If you leave at least 40 characters remaining, folks can easily retweet it to their buds.  And you can shorten your links by going here.

Don’t be a shmo. Also use these sites to promote other writers, other events, to praise books that you’ve read.  Balance is key, and you are part of a wide-spread community, so share the love.

Reader-oriented sites offer a great way to connect with your audience. Create an author page. Friend folks who have read your book. Friend folks who have read a competitor’s book and suggest they check yours out!  Here are the sites I spend time on: librarything.com, shelfari.com, goodreads.com.  Librarything and goodreads also let you post your events. Also, join indiebound.org and friend all your fav bookstores.

Booktour.com is an amazing site. Create an author page, and type in all of your appearances. They will automatically send out your appearances to a huge number of online sites.  And, I also suggest you go onto your book’s page at amazon.com and click on your author page. You can now add a picture, a bio, and link your blog posts here.  PLUS booktour.com will make sure that your appearances appear there as well.

Linkedin.com is a more professional site, meaning you can’t just friend, or connect, with everyone.  But join some groups, like one for bookstores or libraries or publishing, and then you can use that connection when you invite someone to connect to you.  Create a beautiful profile, and link your blog to it so that the content is always interesting and changing.  They give you a really simple way to do this.

Now, back to the human side of things… Involve your friends and family everywhere to help you in your promotion.  Like I said before, I’ve never bought a book because I’ve gotten a bookmark, but I have bought a book because someone recommended it to me.  I think J.A. Konrath wisely pointed this out on his site, and it really stuck with me.  So do encourage folks to write reviews for barnesandnoble.com, amazon.com, and on goodreads and shelfari.  Enlist this army of supporters to request your book be purchased at their libraries (most library sites allow this on their online sites, and require a library card number). Have them visit their local bookstores and put your book face out, instead of just spine out.  Hem, hem.  This comment may get some flak from the industry that actually pays to have a title face out on a shelf so it’ll get noticed faster, but if Aunt Minny quietly goes into a bookstore and does this, no harm, no foul I say.

Liars club25One more thing. There is definitely power in numbers. If you can create a group of writers who will blog together, or do panels and talks together, you can turn any event into something noticeable and special.  I’m a proud member of the Philly Liars Club, and it has been an incredible journey. We support each other, and we are able to support independent bookstores through our special truth tour events. Are there other debut novelists that you can link up with? Other authors you know in your genre who could do a panel with you at the next huge convention? Power in numbers, baby!

So you can see there is a lot that you can do, most of it while sitting at home in your jammies in front of your laptop.  After I gave this talk about marketing (not in my jammies), the members of the Bucks County Romance Writers group all wanted to know when I actually found time to write.  I told them that in the last two years I’d done all this promotion, AND written two additional novels. I encouraged them to get to work.

I’m pretty sure they will.

Stranger than Fiction: Are Industry Lies Keeping You Down?

To all writers out there who are dutifully following the rules laid out in guidelines and at conferences about submitting your work: getting frustrated much? How well I know that feeling.

If you play strictly by the rules, the whole process could take so long that you just might give up before your manuscript is seriously considered by an agent or an editor.  The following article is for anyone who has a tightly edited manuscript and wants to speed up the whole submission process without completely pissing off the gate-keepers to the publishing world.  I hope it helps you get closer to your dream of publication.

Stranger than Fiction:
Are Industry Lies Keeping You Down?j0402594
by Marie Lamba

Never send simultaneous submissions. Always tell you are multiple submitting. Never email. Do this, don’t do that. Yada yada yada. Guess what? Lot’s of this advice might be actually keeping you from getting ahead! Let’s sort some of this stuff out.

The Big Lie:
Never send simultaneous submissions. If you do simultaneous submit, you must tell the editor/agent.

The Big Truth:
Never send simultaneous submissions to two editors or agents in the same company. Other than that, all is fair in love and publishing. Hey, what other business expects you to do things one at a time and wait for months to hear anything? Makes for very poor marketing. And you don’t need to tell anyone it’s simultaneous. Just don’t mention it. Do you really think you are getting two offers from two different people at the same time? Seriously?

I know that if you talk to editors on a conference panel, they’ll tell you just the opposite. Think about it. Why would they want you to flood everybody with submissions? And if you were a buyer, wouldn’t you love to avoid all chances of competition? But talk to professional authors, and they will tell you to simultaneous submit. If they didn’t, they’d still be waiting by the mailbox for a response.

Caveat: Make sure you carefully target your submission to editors and agents who actually handle your type of work, or else you’re wasting everyone’s time. Also, if an agent asks for an exclusive read and you agree, make sure it is an exclusive or be up front if it isn’t. You don’t want to start things on the wrong foot.

The Big Lie:
Be patient.

The Big Truth:
Patience is sometimes stupidity. In every submission, include a SASE postcard with a check off that they’ve received your work in good condition. If after a month the card is nowhere in sight, email the editor or get on the phone and call to track it down. Otherwise you may be waiting for 4-6 months to hear about a book that they never even received. (Been there, done that.) Of course, if you’re multiple submitting, it won’t be a huge tragedy, but still.

Also, if you haven’t gotten a response to your manuscript in their promised reading time, do a follow-up by email, phone or mail to make sure you’re still in the queue and not lost in a junk pile. Be polite and no nonsense about it. Don’t waste everyone’s time chitchatting.

The Big Lie:
Never Email

The Big Truth:
Email is amazing. Email queries are fast. Agents love these. You can find most agent and editor emails by Googling “their name” plus “email.” Email is also great for a quick follow up on a return postcard that wasn’t sent, or if the manuscript is past the reading time promised. But I wouldn’t email a manuscript unless you got a go ahead for this first.

The Big Lie:
When going to a conference, leave your manuscript at home.

The Big Truth:
Okay, nothing screams AMATEUR more than hauling out that huge manuscript and foisting on an editor at a conference, but it is useful to have the manuscript tucked away just in case. When I was at a pitch slam and the editor liked what I said, he asked, “Could you quickly read me some of it?” I yanked that pile of paper out pronto and started off. Also, I like to bring to conferences a few stapled sets of my first chapter with a one-paragraph summary and contact info attached to them, just in case.

The Big Lie:
If an agent/editor doesn’t get back to you, give up.

The Big Truth:
Always hope. Agents and editors are swamped. They may say response time is 4 months, when in reality it could be 9 months to a year. They lose manuscripts, their computers fail, emails get lost in cyberspace. Always put in that SAS postcard to confirm receipt. If emailing a manuscript, ask for an email confirmation that it was received. Follow up every few months to make sure you’re in the queue and ask if you should resend. You’ll find that most feel really bad about making you wait and will be kind when you touch base with them.

The Biggest Truth of All:
If your manuscript is shoddy, nothing will work. If your manuscript is excellent, GO FOR IT! No one will turn you down, unless you are a complete jerk. So be professional and courteous. When these two qualities are mixed with an excellent work, it is the true formula for success. No lie!