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Right Writing News, June 16, 2008, Issue #33
June 16, 2008

Welcome to the 33rd 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) Mark Your Calendar -- Two FREE Teleseminars
By W. Terry Whalin

2) The Attitude of a Successful Writer
By Jim Denney

3) I'm Drawn To Creativity and Innovation
By W. Terry Whalin

4) Everyone Starts Small So Get Started
By W. Terry Whalin

5) Fortune Magazine and Viral PR
By Fern Reiss, CEO,

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

7) Secrets of Thinking Like a Kid
By Laura Backes

Mark Your Calendar

Two FREE Teleseminars

By W. Terry Whalin

A Rare Opportunity

Unless you travel to a writer's conference or a trade show, it's often difficult to reach an editor with your questions--especially if you are new to the world of book publishing.

There are several challenging areas of the book marketplace for writers. First, the children's market is a challenge. Many beginning writers read dozens of children's books to their own children and decide, "I could have written that book. In fact, I think I'll try." These writers throw down some words on a paper and begin sending out their materials to publishers. Before long they receive a nice little stack of rejection notices--which they don't understand. I'll admit that I didn't understand much about this market from the publisher perspective until I worked as an acquisitions editor and brought children's books into the publishing house. It is not easy and full-color printing is expensive. I've seen the financials for some of these children's books and to most would-be authors, the numbers are staggering. I know a number of writers who would like to have some inside information about how to get their own children's books published.

And what if you are an illustrator for your own children's books? It is possible but it is even rarer for a writer to make the words and the illustrations for their own children's book. I want to tell you about a new children's book called Rainy Day Games by Andy McGuire. I've read this book and Andy's artwork combined with his elegant words is remarkable.

Here's the rare opportunity for you: you will get to ask Andy some questions about this work through a live virtual book tour on Wednesday, June 18th. Just go to and ask your question and sign up. If you can't attend the event, it will be recorded and you will receive the replay link and be able to download it to your computer or iPod. Rainy Day Games is Andy's first children's book which he wrote and illustrated.

Andy has a fascinating day job as the fiction editor at Moody Publishers. Whenever I set up these teleseminars, I ask the author for something which we can give the participants as an "ethical bribe" or gift. It turns out Andy had four unpublished chapters of a how-to book on how to write a novel. I poured this material into an Ebook template to create Novel Writing Curriculum. Everyone who asks a question and signs up for next week's event, will be able to download this 47-page book on the confirmation page. In addition, at the bottom of the confirmation page, you will be able to tell your friends about this event.

As the host and creator of this week's teleseminar, I'm excited about the opportunity to interview Andy and learn about his children's writing but also about how he handles his fiction editor role at Moody Publishers. I hope each of you will sign up and take advantage of this learning opportunity.

A Second FREE Teleseminar on Wednesday, June 25th

I'm returning to a popular topic where people have continual questions--book proposal creation. Just go to and ask a question and sign up for this live telewebcast.

As a special incentive for you to sign up, I've compiled over 40 of my entries from The Writing Life where I've written about book proposal creation. When you sign up at and get to the confirmation page, you will immediately be able to download this 90-page Ebook called BOOK PROPOSALS THAT SELL EXTRA SPECIAL REPORT as my gift to you.I look forward to seeing your questions and talking with you on Wednesday, June 25th.

The Attitude of a Successful Writer

By Jim Denney

In his book Telling Lies for Fun and Profit, Lawrence Block wrote, "It continues to astonish me what a widespread and enduring fantasy 'Being a Writer' is for the population at large. It's a rare day when I don't encounter some misguided chap who expresses the desire to trade places with me. And it's on those not-so-rare days when everything goes wrong, when the words won't come but the rejections fly thick and fast, when the bank account's gone dry again and editors don't even bother lying about the check's being in the mail, that otherwise sane folks tell me how much they envy me."

I've noticed that, when people find out what I do for a living, they often say, "I always wanted to be a writer," or, "I bet I could write a book if I put my mind to it." The people who tell you such things might be pizza delivery guys or doctors or astronauts, yet they all admire writers. They all have a secret wish that they could write. They all think they could do what you do if they had the time or the opportunity or if their lives were different somehow.

But you know what? I've never met a writer anywhere who wanted to be anything other than a writer. Take any person who says, "I am a writer," and I don't care how penniless he is, how long it has been since his last paycheck, how much he struggles with self-doubt, writer's block, and unreasonable deadlines--he does not, even for a moment, consider changing jobs. Why? Because writing is not a job. It's a mission. It's a calling. It's more essential to your soul than a career. It is not just your profession--it's your identity.

A computer programmer can go to seminary and become a preacher. A school teacher can tender her resignation and become an exotic dancer. But can a writer give up writing and become something else? Unheard of! Writing is not what you do, it's who you are! If you are a writer, there is nothing else to be.

If you know in your bones what I'm talking about, if you know that you have to be a writer, then you must write. You only get one life, and the life you've been given is made up of a finite number of heartbeats. Between your first heartbeat and your last is a brief span of time in which you are permitted to write your books and speak your piece. When your time is up, they will put you in a box and throw you in a hole to make room for the next writer waiting in line.

So now is your time, my friend. If you're going to write your books, you'd better get at it. Here are the keys to maintaining the attitude of a working writer as you pound your dreams into reality:

• Stay cool under pressure. Writing requires intense mental concentration. Pressures are distractions, and distractions are corrosive forces that can stop the flow of your writing. Marital and family strife are deadly to your inspiration. Financial stress can make it hard to put two coherent thoughts together. Deadline pressure can make you freeze like a deer in the halogen highbeams.

Understand, I'm not telling you to eliminate pressures and distractions from your life. It can't be done. The problems and pressures of life are inevitable, so you must learn to cope. One of the best survival skills a writer has is the ability to remain cool under pressure. There may come times when you are under intense deadline pressure and intense financial pressure at the same time--way too much work and no money at all. It will seem massively unfair and unreasonable--but you still have to finish the work in order to collect your next check. Money or no money, stress or no stress, you've got to write.

My most important asset in the early days of my freelance career was a sense of perspective. I looked at things this way: Okay, there's no money--so what's the worst that can happen? I put off some bills and make my apologies to a few creditors. The check will eventually get here.

Meanwhile, I can still write, I still have my health and my family, and life goes on. On the scale of bad things that can happen to a person, a little short-term financial stress just doesn't even budge the scale.

• During bad times, avoid self-pity. Unless you somehow manage to write a best-seller right out of the box (and I'm not sneering at that--it has been done), accept the fact that it takes time, patience, and persistence to build your career and achieve your goals. That's the way it should be. If writing was easy, everybody would do it.

At times, you may be tempted to look with envy upon your workaday friends with their secure jobs and regular paychecks. You'll be tempted to feel sorry for yourself. Don't. You have a lot of things going for you that they don't have:

1. Unlimited upside potential. Sure, the money is lean and the checks are slow at first. But your friends, the nine-to-fivers, top out at a certain level. They reach a point where they are making as much as they can make, and they can't advance any higher. A talented, focused, determined writer has unlimited upside potential. If you can write as well as Stephen King, Tom Clancy, or J. K. Rowling, you can become a one-person publishing empire and deforest half of Saskatchewan with your brilliant words. And why shouldn't you?

2. You're doing what you love. How many of your friends can say that? Most of the people you know are just marking time until retirement. Few are doing what they really love to do. If your friends won the lottery today, most of them would quit their jobs tomorrow. But if you won the lottery, would you stop writing? No way! Sudden wealth would just give you more freedom to write what you want.

3. You are a writer. You aren't mowing lawns or delivering pizza. You aren't cold-calling on disinterested prospects. You don't have to wear a pager to the opera, be on call at all hours of the night, or answer to a mean-tempered, autocratic boss. That's not to disparage the people who do those jobs, because all honest work is honorable. But you have something better than a job. You have something nobler than a career. You have a calling. You have a purpose in life. You are a writer.

• Think like an editor. If you want to write books, then ask yourself, "What sells?" Become acquainted with trends, bestsellers, and niche markets. Spend time in bookstores, checking out the racks and the displays, figuring out what sells. Read the trade journals, like Publishers Weekly. Know what editors are looking for, and make it your business to deliver it.

I continually encounter people who want to write a book about their own life or the life of someone close to them. Unfortunately, such books rarely get published. Your grandfather may have been a fascinating man who led an interesting life, but the truth is, if your grandfather didn't win a war, a Super Bowl, or an Academy Award, it's going to be tough finding a publisher for your grandfather's life story. Non-fiction book publishing today is celebrity-driven, event-driven, and publicity-driven. Competition is fierce. If you want to sell your book, you've got to think commercially.

Magazine publishing is another thing altogether. There are thousands of magazines filling hundreds of niches. Even the story of your grandfather's adventures as a ringmaster with a traveling flea circus--if the story is well-written with just the right slant--will sell to one or more of those magazines. You just have to do your homework and familiarize yourself with the markets. That means you must research potential markets in Writer's Digest and on the Internet. If a magazine doesn't post writers' guidelines on its website, then invest in some stamps and ask for them (send an SASE). Most important of all, read the magazine. Get to know its content, focus, readership, editorial personality, and slant. Study the contents page--and study the actual content.

Select a few publications you'd like to write for, then make it your goal to crack that market and keep selling articles there. After you conquer one publication, use your credits to impress editors at other publications, so you can sell to even better-paying markets.

• Finally, have fun! Novelist Piers Anthony once told me, "I hardly need to generate the motivation to write because I love to write and I do it all I can." And writer-editor Robert Darden told me, "My most exciting moments as a writer occur when I'm working on my fiction. It's like a drug--I crave it. Writing fiction is the greatest joy in this business--and when writing is fun, you can't keep from writing!"

So do what you love, have a blast, and write!

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

I'm Drawn To Creativity and Innovation

By W. Terry Whalin

The dual covers on this week's issue of The New Yorker magazine were just a hint of the excellent content called The Innovators Issue. One of the consistent questions that people will ask me is about where writers get their ideas? One bit of insight into this question comes from reading about innovators. Just check out Malcolm Gladwell's article Annals of Innovation. If you are not a subscriber to The New Yorker (as I am), then get over to your local bookstore and pick up a copy of this issue. It's well worth it.

One of the details that is documented in this article is that people can have the same idea at exactly the same time. No one is stealing anything but the same idea can be proposed from two different parts of the country at the same time. I've seen it in the magazine and book business. Particularly new writers are worried about such things but the real question is who will act on their idea with excellence and be the first one to get it into the marketplace, then promote that idea to others?

I continue to see writers struggle to put together a good proposal--and other would-be book authors haven't even investigated the world of publishing to understand that for a nonfiction book they need a book proposal instead of a manuscript. I regularly hear authors complain and groan about doing marketing for their books--yet it doesn't take loads of effort. It does take consistency.

For example, recently I was on the telephone with an editor at a publishing house and mentioned my Book Proposals That Sell to see if this editor knew about the availability and focus of my book. As a former acquisitions editor, I wrote the book to get better proposals. I offered to send a review copy and he wanted to read the book. Notice I initiated the conversation, then followed up and sent him the book. It did not consume my day and only took a few minutes of effort. Will it pay off? I have no idea but in the big picture of sales for the book, I suspect it helps the overall efforts. You can do the same thing with your books or writing work. Look for innovative ways to incorporate these actions into the natural conversation of your life.

I've pointed to The New Yorker and this Innovators Issue as a resource for fostering your own creativity and innovation. I want to quickly look at three other resources. In some ways I feel surrounded with this theme.

This weekend my wife and I watched the DVD version of Enchanted. It is an incredibly joyful and innovative film. If you haven't caught it, then watch this version. Several months ago when it was in the theaters, I saw it twice and my wife caught it three times. Yes, it was that good. If you get this DVD version of Enchanted make sure you look at the bonus features and notice the team creative effort which was poured into this production. This point is emphasized repeatedly in the little clips with the actors and director. Here's another detail that I picked up watching this material. The idea for Enchanted was batted around the Disney Studios for nine years before it was completed. I would encourage you to locate and learn about creativity and innovation from this film.

There are many different opportunities to grow in your writing and knowledge about publishing abound--if you are aware of them. Today I'm celebrating how I'm drawn to creativity and innovation.

Everyone Starts Small So Get Started

By W. Terry Whalin

When I talk with would-be book authors about starting an email newsletter or an ezine, I often hear, "No one will be interested in my newsletter and my list will be so small." Or "What in the world will I write about or use to fill the newsletter (or starting a blog)?" Here's the truth of the matter: everyone starts small. When you start any publication, you put yourself, your spouse and a few close friends to pad your newsletter list and get it going.

The key is to start and then consistently put out your newsletter. It doesn't have to be often but it does have to be consistent and continually grow. Many people talk about writing and even repeatedly go to writers conferences, but the ones who succeed are the ones who continue to grow in their craft--and they consistently write. They write for magazines and they write fiction and nonfiction but they keep working at their writing.

I'm suggesting you can do the same thing when it comes to growing a newsletter. Over four years ago, I started Right-Writing News I had less than 50 subscribers. Today I have thousands of subscribers and this list continues to grow. Yes, I've had a few people unsubscribe but that happens for many reasons and some of them have even unsubscribed then returned. It's a free newsletter and I've produced 32 issues. If you look at the newsletter, I don't write all of it but get articles from my friends and those articles promote their books and other work. You can do the same with your newsletter. It doesn't have to be as much work as it appears. You can download a free 150-page Ebook about this topic but the key is to get it started and grow your relationships with individuals. Newsletters, blogs or a book project or any type of consistent writing project takes work. Just keep the big picture in mind and take the plunge.

Recently I received the May 12th issue of Publishers Weekly and noticed two listings from their bestseller list which are connected to this matter of growing your newsletter list. In past entries about The Writing Life, I've mentioned Debbie Macomber and how she continues to grow her newsletter list and use it. Her new release, Twenty Wishes, is #3 on the hardcover bestsellers fiction list. Debbie is on a 20-city tour to promote the book and at a recent signing in Chicago fans lined up for more than two hours to meet her. Then the magazine says, "Many attendees learned about the signings through e-mails from Macomber. At every appearance, she invites readers to join her e-mail list--already over 90,000 names. Mira reports 480,000 copies in print (of Twenty Wishes)." Macomber has established a personal connection to her audience.

If you flip the page in your Publishers Weekly over to the paperback bestseller/ trade list, you will notice the second entry or Hungry Girl from Lisa Lillien which makes its first week of appearance on the bestseller list. Beside the entry, here's part of what is in the magazine, "Lillien began her Hungry Girl ( in 2004 with 100 subscribers; now, she has 440,000. When she announced the book to her readers a month before the April 29 pub date, preorders at online retailers racked up astronomical numbers--it hit #1 at and #2 at and stayed in the top 10 for the month of April. Griffin (the publisher) reports 400,000 copies after eight printings and expects that figure to increase." Lillien's newsletter is daily which is quite ambitious. You don't have to start there--but do get started.

The value of your list and that direct connection to the author will be evident in your book proposal and pitches to publishers. It will pay off.

Fortune Magazine and Viral PR

By Fern Reiss, CEO,

So a lot of people have been writing in and asking me how I managed to garner a full-page feature story on my workshops in Fortune Small Business Magazine.

I’ll ’fess up all to the subscribers of my free Expertizing newsletter on getting more media attention for your book & biz in the next issue (Sign up now at so you don't miss it!).

But here I wanted to come clean (and if you haven't seen the Come Clean ad,, it’s worth a peek) about the value--and necessity--of meta publicity, or viral PR.

Getting a full-page feature in a major business magazine has been great for my book sales and business. But Fortune Small Business doesn't go to everyone in the world--their subscribers number a paltry million people. So here's what else I did to spread the word:

I put up a mention of the Fortune coverage at both the and websites.

I mentioned it on all the writing, publishing, and promotion listserves I frequent.

I sent out a press release detailing the coverage. (Google Fern Reiss and look at the PR Web press release.)

I added the press release to the media page of the site.

Based on the press release, I got several additional requests for articles on Expertizing (including from Steven Covey's Sales and Service Excellence newsletter) and many interviews with other publications, including Bulldog Reporter's Media Relations. (These, in turn, will generate other sales.) I'm expanding on some of the details of how to get big stories like the Fortune feature in my online syndicated column which goes to thousands of ezines and websites monthly.

I wrote a letter to the editor of Fortune, to see if I could also wangle my way into next month's issue.

And I included it in my publishing blog at

So when you think you've exhausted all the media attention you can, think again. There's almost always some more meta-marketing to be wrung out of your PR.

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

Make An Effort To Reach Out

By W. Terry Whalin

Writing tends to be a solitary activity. You have an idea for a magazine article so you write your query letter and mail (or email) it to the editor. Then you wait for a response and many writers almost wear a path back and forth to their mailbox (or electronic mailbox) trying to receive an answer.

If you receive a response, even if it is a rejection, you can know you reached out and communicated with that editor. If you don't receive a response, then after a healthy amount of time (which varies depending on the particular details such as your relationship with that editor and their guidelines), then you have a choice. You can either send a little follow-up note to see if they got your pitch in the first place. Communications can be erratic and for whatever reason, some times it simply doesn't get through to the other person. A gentle question can be OK and even gain focused attention from the other person and positive action--or instant rejection.

Recently I wrote one of these gentle prods to a magazine editor where I wrote them several weeks earlier and heard nothing. I blamed it that possibly my email didn't get there in the first place. My follow-up email initiated an exchange where I picked up a definite magazine assignment with this editor. It turns out she did get my first email, had processed it internally at a meeting with the other editors and was ready to give me the assignment. We exchanged four or five emails during a single day to refine and specify my assignment and now I'm off and running. The right type of follow-up (learn it) works.

Or you can decide the lack of response is the same as a rejection and move on to a new idea and a new pitch. It is often that persistence and perseverance that gains achievement for the writer. I've found too many people give up too easily in their search for the right person with the right idea for their writing.

Beyond persistence with your pitching ideas, I want to encourage you today to make the effort to reach out to someone who knows less than you about the publishing world. What can you do to help some individual within the community?

Your efforts can be a simple email of encouragement or passing along a book to someone that touched you in a special manner. Maybe you point out an unusual resource such as a free Ebook like my Straight Talk From The Editor or Right Writing News.

Often you will never know the difference that effort makes in the life of someone else. Occasionally you hear about the difference you made for someone else at a critical juncture in their life and you stepped in with that dab of encouragement. It's rare for me but occasionally someone will begin a conversation at a writer's conference or in an email about the significant way that my words helped them. When this experience comes, I'm humbled and appreciative for the opportunity to help. I'm constantly aware that throughout my writing life, I have many resources that have poured into my life--people and books and conferences and many other sources.

Two days ago in church I was reminded of the importance of reaching out to others. They called two recent high school graduates to the front and celebrated their achievement, then gathered the parents and siblings around them for prayer about their future plans. For a moment, I was transported to my own uncertain days at that juncture of my life with I graduated from high school. When I left home I was headed to the campus of one of the largest universities in my state of Indiana, Indiana University.

I went off to college with a New Testament among my books called Reach Out, which was a Living Bible. I tucked it on the shelf of my college dorm and didn't open that book. In those early weeks as a freshman, another new freshman named Lucy came into my room and noticed the book. Excited to see that New Testament, she called it to my attention. She was reaching out to see if I was also a Christian and we had something in common. Instead I downplayed the fact that I even had this book on my shelf. I was in a rebellious mode from my parents and upbringing. It was almost a year and a half later that I had a life-changing experience which I captured in an article called Two Words That Changed My Life. Looking back I appreciate the fact that Lucy who was from Tennessee made the effort and reached out to me.

What are you doing today to reach out to other writers and encourage them with their writing? You may protest that you are also new to the writing world and don't know much. If you know anything, you can use that information to encourage others. Point to a valued resource. I've listed many of them in these entries. Encourage them to sign up for the updates of these entries on The Writing Life or forward this entry or point them toward a resource like Book Proposals That Sell. I wrote this book with the intention to help writers submit better proposals--but also I wrote it so I could receive better proposals.

People love to complain about how they are working hard and not getting any place. Or how they are marketing without results or how they are sending out their writing and getting rejected. If you are one of those complainers (or have a friend who is complaining), encourage them to make an effort to reach out to others. They will feel better for the effort and they can be a part of the solution for someone else.

Secrets of Thinking Like a Kid

By Laura Backes

One of the toughest tasks for writers is to get inside the brain of a child. Sure, we all have our own childhood memories, but those can be spotty at best. And even accurate recollections reflect a different time and a different mindset.

The standard advice is to observe and interact with children. Being around kids can give a window into the language and interpersonal dynamics of today's kids. But even this is far from foolproof. Youngsters are thoroughly aware of an adult's presence and may simply be trying hard to be on their best behavior. There is another way, however, that is remarkably efficient and is a surefire way to get an accurate picture of the likes, dislikes and passions of kids: read some magazines.

As the periodical market has become more niche-oriented, editors and publishers have become--by necessity--geniuses in understanding their slice of the audience. The people who put out Boys' Life, for example, spend a great deal of time and money working to master the mindset of the grade school boys in whose life Scouting and outdoor adventure play a vital part. Page after page of the magazine reflects this understanding. The vocabulary, pacing, subject matter, article length and design are all tailored specifically to suit this audience. If you hope to write for this niche, becoming familiar with Boy's Life is as valuable as attending a dozen Scout Pack meetings--and probably a lot more peaceful.

So here's the plan--for whatever age, gender or special interest group you hope to write for, find their magazines and read them, cover to cover. When you do, consider these points:

* Note how the magazines target a narrow age group and sometimes just one gender. Compare a magazine for early elementary readers to one for ages 9-12, and see how the tone, humor and attitude of the writing changes.

* Some magazines have an educational focus, and others are for entertainment. Notice how the educational publications still capture readers' interest by using jokes or making the topics relevant to kids' lives. On the other hand, the entertainment magazines also strive to profile people who are good role models, to showcase activities that are worthwhile, and to work within age-appropriate boundaries of good taste.

* Notice how the slant of magazines for girls is different from that for boys. Girls' publications often feature more fiction and poetry; boy's magazines might contain jokes or comic strips. As an exercise, read some "boy" magazines and "girl" magazines for the same age group, and pinpoint their differences. This will help you in creating boy and girl characters for your fiction.

* Peruse some of the actual articles in recent issues. Many magazines have excerpts on their web sites, so you can easily get a sense of what kids are reading (look in the magazine market section of Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market published by Writer's Digest books for lists of magazines and their web sites), though there's no substitute for thumbing through a hard copy of each publication. This will help you understand not only what kids care about, but what they're learning at school. Educational magazines in particular want articles that can be applied to what children are reading in class. And if you're writing fiction that centers around a character's school experience, you want to get the teacher's lesson plans right.

As a fiction writer, reading children's magazines can help you zero in on what your characters care about, what's going on in their world, and even what they find funny. If you're writing nonfiction, magazines will show you the breadth of interests enjoyed by your target audience, and perhaps point you toward a niche you can fill. So visit your local newsstand and start your research. You may get some funny looks when you're reading Jack and Jill at Starbucks, but the publishing contracts will be worth it.

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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