The No-Stress Way To Create Your Story’s Logline

medium_4467347340by Laura Drake @PBRWriter

I love loglines. There’s no better feeling than pulling together words that capture the spirit of your book in a perfect, compelling way. I teach a submissions class for the Lawson Writer’s Academy and find that loglines are a major source of stress for my students.

Have you ever noticed that loglines are only fun to come up with when they’re NOT yours?

There’s a reason for that.

But first, there’s some confusion about taglines vs loglines, so let’s start there.

  • A tagline is a catchy ‘movie poster’ phrase.
  • A logline is a 25 word synopsis of your book.

Examples illustrate the difference clearly:


Tagline – Don’t go in the water.

Logline – After a series of grisly shark attacks, a sheriff struggles to protect his small beach community against the bloodthirsty monster, in spite of the greedy chamber of commerce. (from J. Gideon Sarentinos)

So WHY is it so hard to write loglines for your own books? You’re too close to it. A logline is a concise, yet sweeping portrayal of your novel’s genre, conflict, characters and emotion. Did I mention in 25 words? Yeah, no problem.

There are formulas to come up with loglines:

  • At Filmmaking101 Joe Lam says it must have 5 parts:  Protagonist, genre, inner conflict, outer conflict, and climax.
  • Blake Snyder in his book Save the Cat! says:  It must contain a type of hero, the antagonist, the hero’s primal goal and it must have irony.
  • Some say, all you need is a character with a goal and a conflict.

All those work. They’ll give you a perfectly workable logline. A workmanlike logline.

But to me, that’s only a place to start.

THEN you need to add what Margie Lawson calls,

*Sparkle Factor* 

Something that make readers say, ‘Ohhhhh…”

  • Use Backloading: If you haven’t yet attended a Margie class (and if not, you seriously need to – trust me) backloading is taking the most important word in your sentence, paragraph, scene or chapter, and placing it at the end.

Example: Smoke rolled into the sky, spreading over the dairy like an angry fist.

  • Use Power words: Very simply a word that carries power. In the above example, ‘angry’ and ‘fist’ hold power, because they evoke emotion.

Logline Examples:

  • A tough principal takes revolutionary measures to clean up a notoriously dangerous inner-city New Jersey high school. Lean on Me
  • A meek and alienated little boy finds a stranded extraterrestrial and has to find the courage to defy authorities to help the alien return to its home planet. ET
  • Naive Joe Buck arrives in New York City to make his fortune as a hustler, but soon strikes up an unlikely friendship with the first scoundrel he falls prey to. Midnight Cowboy
  • In a future where criminals are arrested before the crime occurs, a cop struggles on the lam to prove his innocence for a murder he has not yet committed. Minority Report
  • A comedic portrayal of a young and broke Shakespeare who falls in love with a woman, inspiring him to write “Romeo and Juliet.” Shakespeare in Love
  • An archeologist is hired by the U.S. government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis. Raiders of the Lost Ark

It could be as simple as an intriguing title40 Year Old Virgin? Who wouldn’t want to read on to find out about that?!

It could be the intriguing premise, stated by combining two disparate references:

“Stephanie Plum meets the Underworld” Darynda Jones, First Grave on the Right

Personally, I’m a fan of using an intriguing line from your book. It can be a good intro to your voice.

This is the line I used in my query for my novel, The Sweet Spot:

The grief counselor told the group to be grateful for what they had left. After lots of considering, Charla Rae decided she was thankful for the bull semen.

From Her Road Home:

You can’t outrun nightmares on a motorcycle – Samantha Crozier knows because she’s tried.

Get the idea? Seem impossible? It’s not. Think about your book. SOMETHING was intriguing enough about the idea to make you spend months writing it. What was that? What was Different? Fun? Compelling?

Okay, your turn. If you’d like input on your logline, post it in the comments, and we’ll help polish it until an agent will need to wear sunglasses to read it!

Tall Dark and Cowboy 72dpiLaura’s double  RITA® FinalistThe Sweet Spot, has been included in a contemporary western anthology that will be released June 3.

Read it, and 5 other great cowboy romances for just $3.99. Click here to pre-order!

About Laura

Laura Drake is a city girl who never grew out of her tomboy ways, or a serious cowboy crush. She writes both Women’s Fiction and Romance.

She sold her Sweet on a Cowboy series, romances set in the world of professional bull riding, to Grand Central. The Sweet Spot (May 2013), Nothing Sweeter (Jan 2014) and Sweet on You (August 2014.) The Sweet Spot has recently been named a Romance Writers of America®   RITA® Finalist in both the Contemporary and Best First Book categories.

Her ‘biker-chick’ novel, Her Road Home, sold to Harlequin’s Superromance line (August, 2013) and has expanded to three more stories set in the same small town. Reasons to Stay will release August, 2014.

This year Laura realized a lifelong dream of becoming a Texan and is currently working on her accent. She gave up the corporate CFO gig to write full time. She’s a wife, grandmother, and motorcycle chick in the remaining waking hours.


photo credit: Loco Steve via<ahref=””>photopin<ahref=”http: ?=”” 2.0=””by=””licenses=””””>cc

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Unforgettable Writing: Use all 5 Senses to Add Emotion

by Orly Konig-Lopez, @OrlyKonigLopez

The other day I finished a book and when my husband asked if it was good, my answer was a rather drawn out, “Yeeaaahhhh.” The story was interesting and the author had a pleasant, easy style. She’d done a nice job of showing me what the rooms looked like, what the characters were wearing, what the car looked like … you get the picture.

And that’s exactly what it was—a nice picture.

But that’s all it was.

That nice picture was behind a glass wall. As a reader, I was left admiring the world the author so carefully created from the outside. So “yeeaaahhhh” it was good but it’ll go in the read and forgotten pile.

That’s not the pile you want your books to go in.

What can you do to make sure your book doesn’t end up there? Don’t just paint a nice visual picture, use all 5 senses.

I know, I know, as a good writing soldier you’ve been holding tight to the “show, don’t tell” rule. And writing is, after all, about drawing a visual picture. So yes, you’ll still be writing mostly visual descriptions. But, make sure every word counts. Include only what strengthens the image and look for fresh ways to describe things.

  • Instead of white sand, sand like iridescent crushed pearls
  • Curly hair can become corkscrew curls that a character has the sudden urge to tug and watch them bounce back

Now put yourself in the scene. What can you show your reader that’s beyond the obvious?

  • A shadow passing outside the window that makes the hair on the character’s arms prickle
  • The way leaves dance with the gentle breeze
  • The slight discoloration on the couch that reminds your character about where her brother spilled a soda the last time she saw him, right before he was killed in the car accident
  • The seam in the wallpaper that’s a fraction off

Think about the last movie or TV program you watched. It had a soundtrack, right? Characters were talking to each other, music during key scenes, the revving of a car engine, the ringing of a phone. Obvious sounds.

When writing, you have to put those sounds into words. Your reader needs to hear what your characters are experiencing.

  • The raspy sound of a character’s cough
  • The twang of an accent
  • The rev of a motor
  • The jangle of keys

Then there’s the unexpected. Those are the details that will make your reader catch her/his breath and will linger in their minds long after they’re done reading.

  • The tap-tap against a window during the middle of the night, as a branch sways in the wind
  • The squeak-squelch of sneakers on a linoleum floor
  • The sound of a house settling when the air-conditioner turns off
  • A character trapped in the slowest line at the grocery store and agitated at being late might notice the otherwise invisible sound of air bubbles snapping as the guy in line behind her chews his gum

No “my dog ate my manuscript” jokes here. In real life, you’re constantly tasting something so why aren’t your characters?

  • The cherry chapstick when the guy kisses the girl
  • The melting heaven of a chocolate lava cake
  • The added boost of coffee as the character licks an escaping drop

Don’t stop with the obvious.

  • A character who arrives at the beach will lick her lips and taste the salt from the ocean breeze
  • A character who’s been running on a hot day might taste the grit of dirt
  • Or maybe a character has just gone through a terrible breakup and is looking for a safe haven at her parent’s house. During the drive there she might taste the rice pudding her mom always made for her when she needed cheering up.
  • During a long car ride, a character stares at the passing scenery and catches sight of the Golden Arches and can suddenly taste the Quarter Pounder with cheese and the salty fries.


photo credit: jenny downing via photopin cc

photo credit: jenny downing via photopin cc

Okay fess up, do you touch a flower petal to see what it feels like? Or run your fingers along a brick wall? What about stroking the leather of a couch? If a friend has a new sweater, do you reach out to see if it’s soft as you’re oooing and ahhhing?

Your characters will be doing the same. And the reader wants to feel through your characters.

  • The prickle as an ant crawls up your character’s arm
  • The stab of pain when your character miss-judges the distance and stubs her toe into the side of the desk
  • The sting of a slap to the cheek
  • The comforting warmth of a blanket

There are times, though when it’s not as much what the character is touching but the act of the touch itself.

  • The way a character touches the tip of her finger to the heart-shaped pendant her husband gave her before he died
  • A character tracing the name of a loved one on a headstone
  • A character putting his hand on another’s upper arm in a “keep it under control” gesture

Smell is an incredibly powerful sense. It’s probably the most nostalgic of the senses, which makes it the ideal tool for flashbacks.

  • Who hasn’t taken a deep inhale of fresh-mowed grass and immediately been transported to a lazy summer day?
  • Or caught the whiff of a perfume and you’re suddenly remembering a best friend or family member who died.
  • What about the smell of a favorite food to transport you back to holidays when the family still got together?

It’s also a fabulous way to suck your reader into a scene.

  • Does the homeless guy smell like car exhaust from sitting on the median of the busy intersection all day? Does his body odor make your character’s nose curl?
  • What about the house your character just walked into? Is that lavender air freshener she smells?
  • Does the chapstick one of the characters use obsessively smell like rootbeer? Maybe your main character hates rootbeer and can’t focus on what the other person is saying to her because she can only think about getting to the bathroom on time.
  • There’s the clichéd perfume on the husband or boyfriend’s shirt when he comes home from a long day “at the office.”
  • Or the hot guy who loses several degrees of hotness when the main character catches a whiff of cigar smoke clinging to his clothes.

Take a few minutes as you’re sitting in your house or walking down the street or in the grocery and really pay attention to what’s around you (without getting arrested, please).

Imagine writing using different senses. Instead of telling your reader that the lettuce was next to the cucumbers and there was a squashed tomato in the middle of the aisle, how could you write that using taste or smell?

Now go back to your manuscript and think about pushing that glass wall aside. Invite your reader in, let her/him enjoy the smells, sounds, tastes that your character experiences.

If you need a little extra inspiration with sense words, click here for a nice starter  list.

Do you uses all the senses in your writing? Pick one of the five senses and share a sentence or two from your work in progress.

About Orly

Orly Konig-LopezAfter years of pushing the creativity boundary in corporate communications, Orly decided it was time for a new challenge. Three women’s fiction manuscripts later (plus a handful of picture books), it’s safe to say she’s found her creative outlet.  When she’s not talking to her imaginary friends, she’s reading or at least trying to ignore everyone around her long enough to finish “just one more paragraph.” Orly is the founding president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association.

You can find her on Twitter at @OrlyKonigLopez or on her website,

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5 Tips for Effective Author Marketing: Small is the New Big

By Lynda Bouchard

Lynda Bouchard, Spanx, Writers In The Storm

What can an author learn from a pair of Spanx? A lot.

I was in a mall last week with my aunt and, as we walked through the pantyhose department, I noticed that one brand stood out. Spanx.

How Spanx got noticed and the unique marketing of this product is a brilliant lesson for all authors. Small is the new big.

1. Fill a void.

As an entrepreneur you want to stand out from everyone else who has a book. Spanx was CREATED to fill a void. Ask yourself what VOID your book can fill – where can it be presented, signed or stocked where it will be noticed.

2. Packaging matters.

People DO judge a book by its cover. Spanx created a recognizable brand image that stands out. Simple and red. Keep it simple – it will be read.

3. Small is the new big.

Spanx has become an internationally known product without ever spending a dime on advertising! They did it by reaching their small core group of friends, family & people they worked with and the word spread like wildfire from there. You MUST have a great product (book) for this to happen. Who is your core audience? Get in front of people who know you.

4. In this world of technology, social media and too many choices there is a fragmented audience. In an attempt to reach EVERYONE – you end up reaching NO ONE.

Think smaller. Think locally. It’s like dropping a pebble into a pond. When you reach the group that cares about you and your message, they will spread the word for you. The buzz will build. You will leverage each interview, media hit & book event to your advantage. Author Hugh Howey is the perfect example of this.

5. Never stop evolving.

Once your book is published consider spin-off items and events that tie in with your book’s title or characters. Your book is your calling card. Think outside the book! Give stuff away with your book at signings. Or online. Give your readers a reason to follow you. Create an online newsletter.

Spanx is an example of never resting on their laurels. They are still creating new lines and new customers. They do it by thinking creatively.

Go ahead, stretch your imagination.

(**Spanx, for you guys out there, is an undergarment that makes women look like Twiggy only shapelier. Great news, they have a men’s line now – check it out, dude!)

What questions do you have for Lynda? Do you worry about author marketing? What marketing efforts worked well for you? What publicity efforts felt like wasted time and energy?

*  *  *  *  *  *

About Lynda

LyndaBouchardLynda Bouchard is Founder and Chief Inspiration Officer of Booking Authors Ink, a boutique public relations firm dedicated to authors.

She writes the Literary Latte Blog and has represented a range of authors from David Baldacci and Dorothea Benton Frank to Harvey Mackay and Ken Burger.

For more information, go to

Spanx photo credit: {Guerrilla Futures | Jason Tester} via photopin cc

Posted in Blogging Guests, WriterStrong | Tagged , , , , , | 18 Comments

Dr. Watson, I Presume? The Importance of Killer Sidekicks

by Susan Spann, @SusanSpann

Sherlock Holmes, mystery, writingWhether you write detective fiction, romance, historical novels or fantasy epics, a lone protagonist never receives as great a reaction as one with a well-developed supporting cast.

Foils serve to reinforce and highlight the hero’s good (and bad) characteristics, and also give the protagonist a chance to shine outside the primary narrative.

Although a “sidekick” isn’t mandatory, a strong secondary character improves many stories in several important ways:

1. Introducing an Alternate Point of View.

Sidekicks rarely agree with everything the protagonist does, and often have a radically different worldview. This gives the author a chance to present alternative theories, new opinions, and thoughts that the protagonist or hero might not propose on his (or her) own.

A sidekick proves especially effective where the sidekick has a different gender, religion, or race than the protagonist. In addition to adding great diversity to your fiction (and forcing you, as the writer, to stretch your mind to encompass another point of view), this lets you write from “multiple” viewpoints even when the narration is not omniscient.

2. Increasing the Tension on Every Page.

People argue. Animals fight. Aliens disagree in ways that sometimes require the use of laser pistols. (Did Han shoot first? Discuss.)

A protagonist needs to have conflict with the antagonist, and often with henchmen, but most of that conflict doesn’t resolve until the final pages of the story. A sidekick offers a chance for a disagreement—or at least tension—on every page:

  • How should the characters hunt for the killer?
  • Is pursuing that guy in the romantic heroine’s best or worst interest?
  • Which of these aliens should we trust, and which ones want to eat us?

The protagonist has her opinion … and the sidekick often has another.

3. A Different Kind of Interaction With the Protagonist.

We learn a lot about people (and animals, and aliens) by watching the way they interact with others, and we learn about protagonists by seeing them in various situations.

  • Does your detective have a fear of Zambonis?
  • Will that sentient unicorn stab someone for calling him “horn-face”?

A sidekick lets the reader see the protagonist interacting with different people, and in additional situations, rather than only interacting with the antagonist and/or henchmen. A sidekick allows the protagonist to develop a different kind of relationship “on screen,” in ways that usually deepen the hero’s character.

4. Playing the Shell Game.

A reader shouldn’t be able to guess a novel’s ending in the first few pages. Generally speaking, readers want some mystery—regardless of the story’s “real” genre. A sidekick can offer thoughts, opinions, and actions designed to distract the reader from the true solution, furthering not only detective fiction but other narratives as well.

By way of example: Father Mateo, the sidekick in my Shinobi Mystery novels, often misunderstands the social conventions and clues presented in the course of a murder investigation. Sometimes, however, he’s the one that gets things right. By keeping him in the foreground, and letting him argue with my ninja protagonist, Hiro, I can use their differing opinions to keep the reader guessing.

All of these, and more, will further the sidekick’s most important job: 

5. Strengthening the Reader’s Connection to the Protagonist.

Ultimately, we read because we enjoy the adventure contained within the pages of a book. We read because we like the hero, or heroine, and because we want to see the villain lose. Although there are many wonderful novels which feature a “lone wolf” protagonist, it’s often the interactions between that character and the ones around her (or him) which draw us in and keep us turning pages

This is particularly true in series fiction.

Holmes without Watson becomes a neurotic, slightly-too-talented sleuth without the humanity and sense of humor his partner brings to the narrative.

Batman without Robin is …. Ok, that might be a bad example. (But a good one to highlight the fact that a sidekick is not an absolute MUST.)

If you’re struggling to make a connection between the reader and your protagonist, to heighten the tension, or to expand your narrative’s world and view, consider adding a sidekick or increasing the role of a secondary character in your novel.

You might discover a “Watson” is exactly what your protagonist really needs.

Who is your favorite fictional sidekick (and why)? What other ways do you think a sidekick can help the protagonist?

*  *  *  *  *  *

About Susan

Susan Spann, Writers In The StormSusan Spann writes the Shinobi Mysteries, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and his Portuguese Jesuit sidekick, Father Mateo. Her debut novel, CLAWS OF THE CAT (Minotaur Books, 2013), was named a Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month. The second Shinobi Mystery, BLADE OF THE SAMURAI, releases on July 15, 2014.

Susan is also a transactional attorney whose practice focuses on publishing law and business. When not writing or practicing law, she raises seahorses and rare corals in her marine aquarium. You can find her online at her website,, and on Twitter (@SusanSpann).

photo credit: dynamosquito via photopin cc

Posted in Craft, Susan Spann | Tagged , , , | 43 Comments

Skimming: Never a Good Thing

by Fae Rowen

Skimming is defined as a crime.Pond scum

If you skim money from your job, you’re going to jail. (Or worse depending who you work for.) Skimming is also defined as removing floating matter from a liquid. Can you say pond scum? That brings us to the final definition of skimming, as it pertains to your story: “To glance through and read quickly or superficially.”

As writers, this is the one that can kill a career–even before it begins.

Why do we skim when we read? We’re in a hurry to get through the boring, the uninteresting, the unnecessary details because we want to get to “the good stuff.” Unfortunately, as humans we want to speed through those same ordinary parts of our days. And we want to turbo-boost through the rough (i.e. the character-building) parts of our own lives.

If you’re skimming through your life, you are cheating not only yourself but your writing. And ultimately, your readers.

I know we’re all busy and tired, so we consciously – and unconsciously – try to save energy. The problem is, when we “multi-task” we zero-observe. Not a good idea for our craft, because our experiences translate into the magic that flows from our fingertips.

Our job is to open our readers to new sensations, new ideas, new locales. If we sleepwalk through our days, we’ve got no fuel for our writer-fire.

Who doesn’t feel potential in the fuchsia and pink streaks across the bluing of the sky at dawn? Who can’t take joy at a baby’s gurgling laugh of glee on the discovery of toes, even after being up all night with the child?

If we don’t wake up and notice the magnificence of life around us, in all its glories and defeats, how can we have any chance to inspire our readers?

No matter your genre, how can you share your world if you aren’t aware of the subtle interactions of others? Sure, we aren’t going to miss two colleagues screaming at each other at work, but did we miss the weeks (maybe months) of the small cues that led to the blowup? Did we miss the not-so-obvious clues? It’s those not-so-obvious clues that surprise our readers, providing the “twist” that makes our plots rise above others.

“If the well is dry, nobody’s getting a drink.”

As writers, we need to be reminded of this often. Take time to fill your well. Hone your powers of observation. You don’t need hours. You just need to wake up to your surroundings and stay present with what is happening in your life. Notice when you tend to “tune out” and be curious about why, really why, you do that. (You can’t use tired for an excuse.)

In fact, become very curious about everything. Not only will that keep you involved in your life, but you may find interesting perspectives about why you do what you do, day after day, even if it’s not making you happy.

Merely being observant is not being awake. A silent movie is simply the observations of a camera. The added sound comes from your feelings, your reactions to what you see.

A word of caution. Living your life completely isn’t easy. Don’t beat yourself up if you have trouble putting together five minutes of openness. And beware, you may uncover nastiness under that rug you’ve been ignoring.

But how can you expect your characters to work themselves out of those black moments we sink them into if we can’t get out of our own?

Awake is being engaged. Awake is feeling the moment. Awake is truly living.

Butterfly on HikeSo stop sleep-walking. Live your day today by trying to put together just five minutes of awake, even if they aren’t contiguous. Do this for yourself every day. It won’t be long until someone tells you your writing is different. Better. And I bet you’ll be able to say the same thing about your life.

Do you have tips on how to wake up? Are you willing to share a story about an experience that was different because you were fully engaged with your heart, your body, your very soul?

*  *  *  *  *  *

Fae RowenFae Rowen discovered the romance genre after years as a science fiction freak.   Writing futuristics and medieval paranormals, she jokes that she can live anywhere but the present.  As a mathematician, she knows life’s a lot more fun when you get to define your world and its rules then watch what happens.

Punished, oh-no, that’s published as a co-author of a math textbook, she yearns to hear personal stories about finding love from those who read her books, rather than the horrors of algebra lessons gone wrong.  She  is grateful for good friends who remind her to do the practical things in life like grocery shop, show up at the airport for a flight and pay bills.


Find Fae on Facebook, Twitter, or here at Writers In The Storm.

Posted in Inspiration | Tagged , , , , | 37 Comments

4 Pieces of Facebook Advice You Can Ignore

Facebooks, tips and tricks, Lisa Hall-Wilsonby Lisa Hall-Wilson

What to do? Facebook has changed – again. There’s more competition than ever for reader attention.

Writers are frustrated and it’s easy to understand why. How do you build a business when the goal posts for success keep moving? What’s the point?

Facebook is probably the slowest platform to build an audience on, and shooting yourself in the foot by listening to bad advice only makes it more difficult.

Choosing to build platform the right way will insulate you from the changes Facebook continues to make because those changes are often intended to deter those who cheat and try to game the system.

Here are 4 of the worst pieces of advice I’ve heard when it comes to building a writing platform on Facebook:

Promo your books to every group every day.

This feels a whole lot like spam.

There are three kinds of groups on Facebook: Open, Closed and Secret. Closed groups are searchable but you have to ‘join’ in order to see the posts. (Secret groups are the same only they won’t show up in searches, you have to be invited to join.)

So, you’re a member of XY closed group. The posts in that group will appear in YOUR news feed because you’re a member. Those posts won’t show up in your friends’ news feeds unless they’re also members of that group.

With an Open Group everything is public. When you post in ABC open group, then EFG group, This-Writer-Group, That-Fiction-Author-Group, etc. that post can (and will) show up in the news feeds of your friends. Over and over and over. Same status – same link – same image.

See why it feels like spam?

Instead of posting to all of these groups at the same time, pick the two or three groups most likely to be interested in that content and spread out posting there over 24 or 48 hours. Craft unique status updates to each group. Show up for the conversation.

Friend every member of every group so they’re more likely to see all your posts.

This is how people land in Facebook jail and are then mystified how it happened. Facebook states that you’re only to ‘friend’ people you know outside of Facebook. Too many people tell Facebook they don’t know you outside of Facebook and you land in Facebook jail with friending privileges suspended.

You’re much better off to be a useful contributor to a group and have people send you a friend request – because they’ll feel like they ‘know you.’ Or turn on the follow button on your Profile so they can follow you – whatever they’re comfortable with.

social media, Facebook

Communicate early, often, and frequently … but not about your books.

If you never post about your writing how will people know you’re a writer? Most people want to ‘know’ a famous author (you don’t need to debate what ‘famous’ means).

They want to get to know you, but they’re also interested in what you’re working on, books you have coming out. They love being asked for input – I need names for my main character – suggestions? Here are the two covers my publisher asked me choose between – what do you think?

Every status update is an opportunity to show your writing skills, you don’t need to trumpet that, but absolutely give that insider-look into the writer’s life and process.

Promote all the time or no one will know about your book.

This is the flip side to the above problem. If you’re a ‘buy my book’ 24/7 channel you become easy to ignore. OR people will hide you from their news feed – banished to Facebook Hinterland. Once you land there, it’s nearly impossible to prove to people you’ve changed your ways. Not only that, if people label your posts as spam in their news feed Facebook will further penalize you and show your posts to even fewer people. Before long you’ll be posting to an audience of your mother and best friend who are too polite to tell you how annoying that is.

This bad advice is often paired with: automate automate automate. Yes many platforms will let you cross post to Facebook. This isn’t bad if you’re crafting a post specifically for your Facebook audience AND you show up and contribute to the conversation you’ve started.

Do you have questions for Lisa? Which Facebook tips
worked the best for you? Which ones were not so hot?
Do you have social media pet peeves?

*  *  *  *  *  *

Lisa is teaching a class Beyond Basics: Using Facebook To Build Platform on May 8th. This is a 2-hour online digital classroom session where she’ll go beyond the basics to learn more advanced techniques. Get her best tips for finding and creating content, best practice on sharing content, and how to drive more traffic to your blog or website.

About Lisa

LisaHallWilsonLisa Hall-Wilson is an award-winning freelance writer, syndicated columnist, and Facebook aficionado. She specializes in interviews, profiles, marketing copy, event promotion, and social justice, and teaches online classes for writers. She writes dark fantasy fiction.

Lisa never turns down an opportunity to go to the theatre (live or for a movie) and can’t resist a good story (especially if there are monsters). She hangs out on Facebook…a lot.

Fine her at her website, Through The Fire, on Twitter or — you guessed it — on Facebook.

photo credit: SalFalko via photopin cc

Posted in Bumps & Bruises on the Road to Publication, Technology Fun | Tagged , , , , | 30 Comments

Classifying Your Book: How to Research & Target Literary Agents

By Chuck Sambuchino

BookStack_photopinOnce your book is finished, it’s time to start submitting to agents. For this, a simple first step is to create a new Microsoft Word or Excel document so you can keep detailed track of your submissions, target agents, resource materials, and more. The document will help you personalize query letters, find more agents to contact, and know when to follow up on submissions.

Now it’s time to create your list of potential agents to query.

As you start compiling agent names and contact info, think in terms of casting a wide net. Scour databases and websites to put together the largest possible collection of reps to contact, then start winnowing down your list as you go along. Understand right off the bat that not every agent is for you. You’ll only be targeting a fraction of the active reps out there—seeking those who represent the specific type of book you’re writing.

Before you go looking for agents to contact, you must define what you’ve written. In other words, when push comes to shove, you have to classify it as something. So what type of book is it? (Note that novels are broken down into genres, while nonfiction is broken down into categories.)

Some writers will have no difficulty with this step—immediately telling their friends that they’ve written “a romance” or “a thriller” or “an illustrated picture book.” But other writers will not be so sure when it comes to this step, questioning the exact classification of their work, and therefore not knowing which agents to target.

Your goal is to try and break the story down into what it is fundamentally. From there, you can still look for more specific market offshoots. Let’s run through some examples of category dilemmas:

Example 1: You’ve written a legal thriller and can’t find many agents who represent this vein of books.

Your mistake is that you’re specifically looking for agents seeking “legal thrillers” when you should just be looking for agents seeking “thrillers.” A popular genre of novels—such as a thriller—has many subcategories, including techno-thrillers, medical thrillers, legal thrillers, climate fiction thrillers (“cli-fi”) and more. But most agents won’t get into the nitty-gritty when explaining what categories they want. They’ll just say, “I seek thrillers.” And anyone who says just that is a great target for you.

Some will personally lean toward your subgenre of thriller while others won’t. You won’t know where they stand in terms of favoritism and leanings, so just query all available markets and hope for the best. Also, there will be a few agents out there who explain outright in their personal information that they seek “legal thrillers.”

If you see an agent get specific like this and put out an APB for the exact type of book you’re writing, that’s a great potential match for you, and you can say “Because I’ve read that you are actively seeking [x], I thought you might enjoy my novel, [Title].” 

Example 2: You’ve written a science fiction young adult book and don’t know whether to contact young adult agents or sci-fi agents.

The answer is to query young adult agents. If it’s a book for kids, it’s a book for kids. It’s not like young adult romance should be treated like adult romance. If it’s fundamentally young adult (YA) or middle grade (MG), you should query for those categories. 


(Hi, everyone. Chuck here chiming in for a second. I wanted to say I am now taking on clients as a freelance editor. So if your query or manuscript needs some love, please check out my editing services. Thanks!)


Example 3: You’re not sure if your book is suspense or thriller because it blends the two.

You won’t find a whole lot of agents who put out a call for a crossbreed of genres, such as “thriller and suspense” or “Western and horror.” Instead you’ll get a lot of agents simply asking for “thriller” and some asking for “suspense,” for example. Feel free to query all of them. In your contact letter to the agent, you can alternate between the classification terms depending on what the agent’s needs are, or you can just query them all stating upfront that it’s a “suspenseful thriller.” 

Example 4: You’re writing one of the categories of fiction that some agents may rep, but virtually none request specifically in their guidelines.

If you’re dealing with a lonely genre of fiction, such as “humorous fiction” or “medieval fiction,” and can’t find many target reps for the book, you can always seek out generalists. Some agents will be very specific concerning what they want and don’t want. But plenty of reps will instead say something like “I’m open to any area of fiction that’s done well.” If an agent openly says they have no restrictions concerning submissions, feel free to contact them and hope for the best.

This problem of possessing an “under the radar category” is even more common with nonfiction, where it can be difficult to find someone who gets specific enough to ask for “books about Wicca” or “books about exterminating unwanted pests from your home.” If you’re writing nonfiction like this, your strategy, again, should be to seek generalists. Also, another good strategy is to find other books in the marketplace that resemble yours and see who repped those books.

Example 5: You’ve written a novel that doesn’t fit into any so-called genre.

Some novels will be easy to categorize, such as fantasies, Westerns and horror. But what about novels that do not fit into any of these popular commercial genres? Chances are, you’re going to call it “literary fiction” or “mainstream fiction.”

Literary fiction means the novel 1) does not fall into any popular genre type, and 2) focuses on character more than plot, and values impressive voice, style and technique from the writer.

Mainstream fiction is a similar category, but the term is used to describe non-genre stories that have mass appeal and can transcend literary fiction readers, into such opportunities as book clubs. In other words, the two categories are remarkably close to one another, and the difference in names is more for marketing than anything else.

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About Chuck

Chuck FW head shotChuck Sambuchino of Writer’s Digest Books edits the GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS and the CHILDREN’S WRITER’S & ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET. His Guide to Literary Agents Blog is one of the largest blogs in publishing.

His 2010 humor book, HOW TO SURVIVE A GARDEN GNOME ATTACK, was optioned by Sony Pictures. Chuck has also written the writing guides FORMATTING & SUBMITTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT and CREATE YOUR WRITER PLATFORM.

Besides that, he is a freelance book & query editor, husband, sleep-deprived new father, and owner of a flabby-yet-lovable dog named Graham.

Find Chuck on Twitter and on Facebook.

photo credit: susivinh via photopin cc
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