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Right Writing News, March 31, 2008, Issue #32
March 31, 2008

Welcome to the 32nd issue to subscribers of Right Writing News. If you are reading this issue forwarded from someone, be sure and use the link below to get your own free subscription.

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Table of Contents

1) The Book Proposal Hot Seat
By W. Terry Whalin

2) Invest In Yourself
By Jim Denney

3) Follow Time-Tested Writing Strategies
By W. Terry Whalin

4) Why Novelists Need Book Proposals That Sell
By W. Terry Whalin

5) Get On National Television
By Fern Reiss, CEO,

6) A Cover and Title Education
By W. Terry Whalin

7) How To Thrill an Editor - Tension Creates Exciting Fiction
By Laura Backes

The Book Proposal Hot Seat

By W. Terry Whalin

It is always a good opportunity with the tables turn and you are interviewed instead of always being the one to ask the questions. On March 26 Rosey Dow from Experts in Focus interviewed me about a topic that I'm passionate about--book proposals. During this hour-long teleseminar, I answered questions which listeners had submitted to her about book proposals.

Why do I continue to go out and encourage people about these proposals?

First, I'm passionate for writers to achieve their dreams and be more successful in their submissions to editors and agents. During the teleseminar, I quoted a statistic from Dan Poynter's Self-Publishing Manual that there are an estimated two million manuscripts in circulation around at different publishing houses and agencies. That is no typographical error but two million. Will you be able to catch that editor or agent's attention in the few seconds they will consider your idea? Can you make it rejection-proof? I gave some ideas in the teleseminar.

As I exposed during the teleseminar, I'm constantly learning new things about book publishing and in particular the submission process. My experience comes from my own work as a literary agent and my years in this business as an editor and writer. Just as the business is constantly changing and evolving, I continue to grow in my experience and perspective.

My perspective about book proposals takes a "snapshot" in my Book Proposals That Sell yet constantly improves and I gave some of this information during the teleseminar.

Second, as people improve their proposals, I hope my editor and agent colleagues start to receive better targeted and better crafted book proposals. From the feedback that I get from readers, I know to a small degree several of my efforts are making a difference and I'm grateful.

Finally in a selfish way, I'm looking for better book proposals that will come into my literary agency. If they are the right project for my agency, then I can work with the author and push it to a new level of excellence then turn and get it into the marketplace for them.

At several different points in the teleseminar, Rosey Dow told the listeners about Proposal Secrets as a resource to learn more about book proposal creation. If you haven't been to the page in a while, check it out. I've added a couple of additional bonus gifts but the change that happened yesterday was an additional order button. Now you can choose to make three payments for the course. I hope this flexibility will help more people take advantage of this resource.

If you'd like to hear my answers to the various questions, then use this link and download the teleseminar (right click the link and "save target as..."). I hope it will be a great encouragement to your writing life.

Invest In Yourself

By Jim Denney

Novelist Anne Rice once said, "What is a writer's greatest asset? Faith in oneself." It's true. If you want to succeed as a writer, then you have to invest in you.

Here's a simple rule of thumb when it comes to investing: Accumulate assets, not liabilities. A liability is a financial obligation. An asset is an item on your balance sheet that offsets your liabilities; an asset could be cash, stock, inventory, property rights, or even goodwill. In the financial bestseller Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Robert T. Kiyosaki defines these terms even more simply: An asset is something that puts money in your pocket; a liability is something that takes money out of your pocket.

So as a writer, what is your best asset? Answer: You.

I'm not talking in some vague metaphoric sense. I literally mean that your own best financial asset is the work you produce as a writer. There is a term for the work you create: intellectual property. When you sit down and write an article, a nonfiction book, a story, a novel, or a poem, you actually invent an asset, using nothing but your imagination. You create a piece of property that puts money in your pocket--and the copyright law says that the moment you create it, you own it.

Of course, you have to make sure you protect your right of ownership in order to hold onto that asset. How do you do that? Well, when you sell your work to a publisher, you insist on the protection of your ownership rights. You protect your copyright. You protect your subsidiary rights, electronic rights, and reprint rights. If you write books, you make sure your book contract is structured so that you are paid royalties on all sales of your work--you don't hand this asset to a publisher for a flat fee. If you write magazine pieces, you make sure you sell only "first North American serial rights" (if you are handed a contract that takes electronic and reprint rights without giving you extra payment, cross out that clause).

Once you have protected your ownership of the intellectual property, you can then take steps to increase the value of that property. Isn't that amazing? Through your own efforts, you can actually drive up the value of your own property! Can you increase the value of a share of stock or a mutual fund or a municipal bond? Of course not. (Well, there are ways--but you can go to jail for it.)

There are scores of things, hundreds of things you can do to increase the value of intellectual property: You can focus on craft and excellence in your work, so that it will be highly prized and sought-after. You can promote, publicize, and advertise your work, so more people will hear of it and clamor to buy it. You can write more works and turn your name into a recognized brand name that people look for and seek out. You can create whole series of stories or books, taking advantage of the fact that groups of similar works create a synergy that multiplies sales.

If you want to invest in yourself and increase the value of your intellectual property, the guiding principle is very simple: The more people who want to buy your work, the more valuable your intellectual property becomes. Soon, you'll receive phone calls from people wanting to adapt it to film or television, translate it and sell it overseas, market it via electronic media, and make plastic Happy Meal toys out of it. If you create a work that has a classic, enduring quality to it, it will remain in print for years or even decades, attracting new generations of readers and devotees--and putting money in your pocket well into your old age.

Can you name just one Wall Street stock that has performed as well, as long, and as consistently as The Lord of the Rings, The Cat in the Hat, The Chronicles of Narnia, Catcher in the Rye, Carrie, or The Martian Chronicles? Neither can I. If you create a perennial best-seller, you own an asset that is better than a blue chip stock.

What are the odds of creating a work that has that kind of limitless upside potential? Well, let me ask you this: How much do you believe in you? Are you willing to take a gamble on your own hard work, imagination, and genius? If not, then why bother writing at all?

You might ask, "What if I invest in myself and fail? What if I flop as a writer? All the time, money, and effort I put into my writing will have been wasted. I'll lose my entire investment."

All of that is true. But every investment has an element of risk. The stock market can crash. Even a blue chip company like an electric utility can go bankrupt. There are no guarantees in life. Everything is a gamble. Why not bet on something you can control? Why not bet on your writing? Why would you rather gamble on the stock market or porkbelly futures when you can bet on you?

Oh, sure, it's smart to diversify. It's wise to spread your portfolio around a bit--Wall Street, real estate, precious metals, works of art. But first and foremost, if you truly believe in yourself, invest in you.
Jim Denney has more than 70 books to his credit and has been a fulltime freelance writer since 1989. His titles include Answers to Satisfy the Soul and the "Timebenders" science-fantasy series for young readers (beginning with Battle Before Time). Visit Jim's website at This article is adapted from his book Quit Your Day Job!--How to Sleep Late, Do What You Enjoy, and Make a Ton of Money As a Writer, copyright 2003 by Jim Denney. You may order Quit Your Day Job! from, Barnes & Noble, or your local bookseller. You may also order directly from the publisher, Quill Driver Books, at 1-800-497-4909.

Are You An Unpublished Author? Learn “Everything You Should Know” from America’s #1 Book & Author Publicist

Follow Time-Tested Writing Strategies

By W. Terry Whalin

Whether you are floundering in your writing, just getting started or thriving, I'd encourage you to get this resource from Jimmy D. Brown called 30 Writing Tips for Ebook Authors.

Maybe you are saying that you don't want to write ebooks. OK, you will still find value in this FREE document. If you are stalled and wondering how to get out of stall and into gear, then you need to read this resource because you can pick up several ideas.

I've corresponded with Jimmy a few times and read this Ebook carefully. He's straightforward, targeted to the marketplace and yet this resource can stir something inside you. The price is right for it--FREE, so click the link and pick it up. Don't just print it but pull out your yellow highlighter read it--then put some of the ideas into practice in your own writing life.

Like many things in the writing world, the proof will be in the application of this material to your own life and situation.

A few of you sharp The Writing Life readers will notice that you've never seen the main domain for this free ebook. It is something that I picked up recently and I haven't fully developed it. I've recently signed up for a Hostgator account and I've been learning how to use some of the different functions of it. They have many resources for their customers and one of them is to install a WordPress blog on the domain. There are thousands of different templates to use through WordPress and I thought the colored pencils from Robbie Williams was fun and different. In the last few days, I've even moved my personal site to this format. You will notice my site has a completely different appearance. I had not updated the old site for some time and it was due a fresh appearance. I'll be the first to admit, I've got a lot to learn in the WordPress format but I'm starting to learn it.

My encouragement to you: get Jimmy D. Brown's ebook then see what you can apply to your own writing life. I suspect great surprises await you.

Why Novelists Need Book Proposals That Sell

By W. Terry Whalin

This past month I did another teleseminar about book proposals. If you follow this link, you can download the full teleseminar but also make sure you read the comment from Krista Phillips in that section. She asks a question that I have heard often over the last few years, "I have seen your book Book Proposals That Sell referenced several places on the Internet, and seen great reviews posted for it. Most of the reviews note that it is a great reference for non-fiction proposals, however I am primarily a fiction novelist. Is the book still a good reference for us fiction writers out there?"

While Book Proposals That Sell has over 75 Five Star reviews on Amazon, there have been a few critics (follow this link if you doubt me) who don't feel like novelists need this book. In this entry on teleseminar about book proposals, I want to tackle this question and give you three reasons that you need this book if you are a novelist. These reasons will also apply to the professional and experienced writer. I've heard many writers resist purchasing this book because they have other book proposal books or felt like the book was only for beginners. These objections are also false in my view because many professional and long-term experienced writers (fiction and nonfiction) have gained insight from the pages this book.

First, let me point out this endorsement from Brandilyn Collins, a bestselling novelist who has read the book and says, "With years of experience as an author and an editor, Terry Whalin has written a book that can help any writer. Book Proposals That Sell offers great advice on building the nonfiction proposal and also explains the inner workings of the editor's and publication board's role in acquiring a new book. Novelists, too, will find this background information very helpful. All authors need to understand the uphill battle they face in selling a book before they can be fully prepared to submit their absolute best proposal or manuscript. Whalin's book lays out what they'll face--and then shows them how to win the battle." OK, I marked in bold the final portion of this quote for emphasis.

Now to my three reasons novelists need to read this book:

1. Understand the Rarity of This Information

For over twenty years, I've read a how-to-write book each month. I've got shelves of these books and periodically I have to clear them out. It is rare to find any editor who writes about the process of book acquisitions. In fact, I've heard a number of my editor colleagues say that they don't like to write. If you travel the writer's conference circuit as I have for many years, you will find that many of these editors don't teach workshops because they don't like to teach or have any inclination in this area. The key decision makers haven't written books (or even magazine articles) about how and why they make decisions about which books to publish and why.

I wrote Book Proposals That Sell from the perspective of the acquisitions editor or the person reviewing your submissions--whether a novel or a nonfiction book. I've read many how-to-write fiction books yet the bulk of my writing for years has been nonfiction. Why? Because I want to constantly improve my storytelling for nonfiction and have gained a great deal of insight from these writers.

2. Understand The Pressure and Mindset of the Editor

Every novelist needs to understand the mindset of the publishing executive to succeed in their desire to receive a book contract. Whether you are trying to write for a particular magazine or publisher or just get published in general, the first step is to understand your reader. That first reader is the editor who is actively reading to locate quality material for their publishing house. You can gain a lot of insight into the editor through reading Book Proposals That Sell.

3. Understand A Great Story Is Assumed and You Need Something More

If your novel is published, it must be a compelling story. The editor or literary agents who champions your novel will need this foundation. Every novelist (and nonfiction writer) should be working on learning their craft. In Book Proposals That Sell, I help novelists understand that in today's market they need something more than a good story. Platform is critical in the nonfiction area but it's the way to rejection-proof your story in the fiction area. Can you take the secrets in this book and turn it toward your novel submission? I know many novelists who have done it successfully. Will you follow the path that they have blazed?

As Sally E. Stuart, the author of The Christian Writers' Market Guide, wrote, "Selling a book may be one of the most intimidating challenges you will ever face. However, an intimate knowledge of the process helps make it easier. Terry Whalin offers his broad knowledge of this business--from both sides of the editor's desk--make him the perfect resource for helping you develop a proposal that sells."

Some readers for this post will probably add some additional reasons. In this post, I've attempted to dispel some of the doubters.

Get On National Television

By Fern Reiss, CEO,

Not every author can get on Oprah. But if you know the ropes, you can get booked on national television. Here's how:

Devise the perfect show. If you want to be on Oprah, you need to know what kind of shows she does. Watch your target show relentlessly. After a while, you will have a good sense for the type of shows they like to do. Then put together the perfect show--featuring you.

Make it easy. You have the best chance of being booked if you make it as easy as possible for the producer to envision your show. So don't stop at devising the perfect show. Figure out who the other guests should be--and what questions the host will want to ask. If you do your research well and submit a complete program to the show, you're on the way.

Provide some controversy. Few shows thrive on boredom. So toss in some controversy. Play devil's advocate with an 'accepted' maxim. Put forth a startling hypothesis. The more excitement you can drum up, the better your chance of being booked.

Email them. Next, condense your research and proposed show into one pithy soundbite. If your email is longer than five sentences including your bio, you need to refine it. Then figure out which producer to email. Usually you can get the producers' names from the credits at the end of the show, or by googling for the show's website.

As an example, here's the email pitch I sent to the PBS national television show, Wall Street Week:

"Many big companies seem to be unveiling new products in their search for shrinking consumer dollars in these tough economic times. But sometimes businesses are better off with their old products and new positioning. And sometimes a branded series of cool products--even if it's something as mundane as coffee (witness Starbucks)--can do well. I'm CEO of, a branding company that helps people get more media attention for their business (and incidentally, profiled in a full-page feature of this month's Fortune Small Business Magazine."

Ten minutes after sending it, I was booked for the show, and two days ago I got my 15 minutes of national attention. You can check out the transcript at, or email the show's producers (please tell them to invite me again!) at

If you'd like to know more about how I got onto this show--and what I did to leverage the publicity after the show was aired--sign up for my (free) Expertizing email newsletter at

And in the meantime, get out there and get onto national television. It can do great things for your book sales.

Fern Reiss is the author of The Publishing Game: Bestseller in 30 Days (book marketing), The Publishing Game: Find an Agent in 30 Days (finding a literary agent), The Publishing Game: Publish a Book in 30 Days (self-publishing). For more information on Publishing Game books, workshops, and consulting, and on getting your book and business featured in the national media, sign up for the complimentary PublishingGame/Expertizing email newsletter at

Copyright © 2008 Fern Reiss

A Cover and Title Education

By W. Terry Whalin

Where do you get educated about how to create a great book title? Or how do you learn what makes a bestselling book cover? From my experience in publishing, people seem to learn this information through trial and error or years of experience.

At least ten or twelve years ago, I wrote a series of back covers for a small publisher. As a freelance writer, the publisher sent the manuscript, the book title and information about the author. Often on a tight production schedule, I skimmed the manuscript, crafted a headline, then some bullet-points of benefits for the book and sent it back to the publisher along with my invoice for the copywriting. I probably wrote twenty or thirty of these back covers. Besides my payment, I received a copy of the finished book. Often I pulled my submitted copy and compared it to the printed book to see what I could learn from the comparison. With few changes, my words appeared on the finished book. I worked in isolation with almost zero feedback from my connection at the publishing house. No one kicked back my words and asked me to rewrite them. From what I know now about the internal process of publishing houses, I suspect the overloaded production person simply took my words, tweaked a few things and pushed it ahead in the process.

Most recently at a publisher, the editor who did the developmental editing for the book also did the copywriting for the back cover material. Yes, the marketing department had input into the final version but the initial draft of the copy came from the editorial department. There are many different ways this part of the process is handled within the publishing community. From my experience it is learn-on-the-job, thrown-off-into-the-deep-end-and-start-swimming sort of effort with little education and instruction. Yet each day customers make critical purchasing decisions about the books from these efforts.

Within traditional publishing situations, the publisher titles the book and designs the cover along with the words on the back of the cover. Many authors feel powerless and out of control of this particular part of the book production process--yet they don't have to be. I've told authors for many years if they propose an excellent book title and subtitle then that title will remain throughout the publishing process. It is the same way with your back cover copy. As the author, you can propose language and if it is excellent, it will be used in the creation of the book.

Back to my original question about training in this area, where do you get it?

I'd like to suggest an unusual yet in some ways expected suggestion. Turn to experts in design and creating book titles to get the right one for your book. I've recently listened to Cover That Book which in several hours of education gives incredible value and ideas for any author. Whether you plan to self-publish or go to a traditional publisher. Why pour this type of energy into the title of your book? Because when you send a proposal to an editor or literary agent, you have seconds--and I mean that--to grab their attention and the first thing they will see if your title and subtitle.

I can hear the authors protesting this information about the cover design. Yes, within a traditional publishing arena, the cover design is the responsibility of the publisher. But I suspect even a major publishing house would carefully look at cover designs from an author they want to publish.

Finally I want to suggest that editors and literary agents in the publishing community will also benefit from Cover That Book. It's an area of the marketplace where most of us have learned through trial and error. There is huge value (and earnings potential) if you get the right training. Susan Kendrick writes a valuable blog called Book Cover Coaching. Whether you get their valuable package or not, I recommend you subscribe to this blog and follow her writing. It's another means to get educated about covers and titles.

How To Thrill an Editor - Tension Creates Exciting

By Laura Backes

I've often written about the need for tension, or suspense, in fiction. Another word would be "conflict"--those twists and turns of plot that get the reader's heart beating. Whatever term you use, it's an essential element in every story. What's the point of reading a book in which the characters only face happy, calm, predictable situations? In a word, it's boring.

But you can't simply lay tension over an existing story. The conflict has to be an intrinsic element of the plot and characters. Plan out your tension from the beginning; incorporate suspense into the basic action of the plot. Here are some ways you can achieve tension-filled stories.

Start with the characters. As you're creating your characters, give them strengths and weaknesses. Your main character's strengths will help him or her solve the problem of the story. But your character's weaknesses can provide obstacles to reaching that resolution and therefore enrich the plot. For example, if you're writing a middle grade mystery, your character might have extensive knowledge about rocks or bats which helps her find an essential clue inside a cave. But if she's deathly afraid of the dark, going into that cave will be a challenge. 

Often it's the characters weaknesses, or flaws, that get him in trouble in the first place. Or, create secondary characters that work in opposition to your main character, throwing roadblocks in her way as she wrestles with the story's conflict.

Ask "What if...."  In The ABCs of Writing for Children, compiled by Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff (Barnes & Noble Books), author Katherine Sturtevant said, "If you're writing a novel, spend some time writing pages that you know will never be part of the book. Put your character in various situations and see how he or she behaves. How would she react if her house had burned down and all of her possessions were gone? What if her best friend won a contest she'd been hoping to win herself? If the person she resented most in the world suddenly gave her a present? Since these situations don't have to appear in your book, there's an endless list of them. You can put your character in scenes with her parents, siblings, or friends until you feel you have a good handle on how she would behave under a variety of situations."

Once you've learned your character's reactions to stressful situations, incorporate those reactions into scenes from your plot.

Raise the stakes. The most satisfying plots have the character trying to achieve a goal, failing several times, and finally succeeding. Each time the character fails, the tension mounts. Don't be afraid to raise the stakes for your character--put him in danger, pull the rug out from under her feet, make him face his worst fear. If the worst thing that could possibly happen to your character actually occurs, and your character overcomes those odds and succeeds, your readers will hang on every word

_____________________________________________________________ About the Author: Laura Backes is the publisher of Children's Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children's Writers. For more information about writing children's books, including free articles, market tips, insider secrets and much more, visit Children's Book Insider's home on the web at

Copyright 2008, Children's Book Insider, LLC.
Reprinted with permission.

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