Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Reading Vacation

 Books are the things you lose yourself into.

I had a bad day during which  everything electronic was sparking, failing and frustrating (I’m looking at you iTunes and AT &T). Instead of taking it out on nearby humans, I  quit everything and read a whole book.

Book sculptureYou have heard, often enough, that writers read.  Authors should read everything.  We should read as if our lives depended on it.  We should read as if we are  still in school and reading is a class requirement, necessary for our  job, something that we must do.  Our response, reasonably enough, is to resist those requirements and go to the movies.  Because the popcorn is better there.

What is forgotten during  all these admonishments is the shear joy of reading.  If you are  a reader,  then you know what it is to lose yourself in a book.  That day I picked up a book thinking okay fine, I can’t get on line, I can’t watch TV, it’s too cold to hike, I’ll just sit here and read.

It was  like taking a vacation.  As I dove into the novel, not only were my troubles temporarily gone, so was my whole being.  Reading launches you into  exotic places, allows you to experience the world through someone else’s eyes, passions and ideas.  It allows you to glance  into the future or experience first hand what happened in the past. And for hours, you are not in your house or your car or your in-laws.  You are on an exotic adventure.

Reading in this context is like getting away with something.  No one knows where you’ve been, what you’ve learned. No one can tell.  A good book gives you conspiracy and a shared experience: you and the author, a communication that transcends both space and time.

Don’t mind me, I’ve been far away.

I am migrating this blog to be part of NewbieWriters.com  Until we have complete lift off, both blogs will publish simultaneously.  Sorry Panda.

You are welcome to re-post this article in your own blog or newsletter – please include this entire statement, “Catharine Bramkamp is a Writing Coach and podcaster, find out if you’re ready to go from  Newbie to Known visit www.yourbookstartshere.com or bramkamp@yahoo.com for a complimentary consultation.”

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The Reluctant Twitter

Twitter for AuthorsSometimes I  cannot ignore the signs, even if you work really, really hard.

The first sign was my friend Beth Barany just published her  excellent book Twitter for Authors and she asked me to review it.

Then my client Julia Stege, who is on the verge of launching her first book, pinned me down (and oh lord that’s something else to manage) and offered to help me with whatever social media eludes me.

And that was, again, Twitter. As if a little bird told them.

For good information, reference Beth’s book and Julia’s Web site.

If you’re flummoxed about how to approach the damn thing, stay here, it won’t take long.

Once I realized that Twitter was really just a very  large cocktail party juiced by illegal steroids, it made it easier to answer one of the first questions in Twitter for Authors: What kind of relationship do you want with Twitter?

Up until now, I’ve treated Twitter as a seething noise of one night stands. Then I thought it was only for other people because the music was too loud.  Finally, with the party idea to help, I realized that what I wanted now was connection  – even a few minutes connecting and conversing is  valuable and worth the time  spent.  How many times do we leave a party satisfied because of a few marvelous one on one conversations?

To find those connection Julia told me to find and follow people I find interesting and who,  therefore, would be interested in what I have to offer.  And go ahead and have some fun (this was recommended by both these experts).  Just as you have more fun discussing Renaissance Art instead of networking for your insurance business, a Twitter conversation about your favorite show or film  may be just the connection you need.

Share the love. When we introduce people at a party we often say – hey, I think you’ll like Sue, she quilts just like you –  we are part of the connections and will benefit even as we hook up our pals.

Like every advice column we’ve ever read, Twitter follows the age old trope of be interested in other people and they in turn, will find you flipp’n fascinating.

So limit how much you talk about yourself   (As soon as you start over promoting your products, you web site and yourself, everyone else will  stampede  for the stuffed mushrooms).  Share something, quote your friends, promote their books, it will make you look that much better.

I love a party, but if you don’t, then (staying with the party metaphor) Twitter maybe exactly the thing for you.  You can take your time, respond when you want, and join conversations on your own terms. You don’t even need to worry about your hair.

Okay, one more question  from Twitter for Authors; What does winning the social media game look like to you?

What does wining at a party or networking event look like?  Is winning walking away with a date for the next night?  Finding the perfect mate?  Finding the perfect job or employee?

I think Beth makes a good point, if we don’t know what we’re after, it’s hard to get terribly involved or enthusiastic about the game.

So get Twitter for Authors, figure out what you want from Twitter and join the conversation.  Talk to me, I’ll be looking for you.

@Cbramkamp

Beth will discuss her book and how to Tweet Better –  on Newbie Writers Podcast  Friday August 23rd.  I can never keep track of what episode number it is.  Just head to Newbie Writers.

I am migrating this blog to be part of NewbieWriters.com  Until we have complete lift off, both blogs will publish simultaneously.  Sorry Panda.

You are welcome to re-post this article in your own blog or newsletter – please include this entire statement, “Catharine Bramkamp is a Writing Coach and podcaster, find out if you’re ready to go from  Newbie to Known visit http://www.yourbookstartshere.com or bramkamp@yahoo.com for a complimentary consultation.”

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Care and Feeding of Your Beta Readers

I now have seven Beta Readers.  Lest you think, well, that’s not very many early readers, I remind you that I will be receiving feedback  from seven different sources, all of whom may mark up the manuscript.  That means pouring over  seven new versions of my book.  Seven is great, I’m not shooting for overwhelm, I’m shooting for concrete opportunities for improvement.

I did not just fire off the manuscript to the volunteer reader, I also included what I needed and what kind of feedback I was searching for.

Bunker in Albania

This bunker in Albania inspired the bunkers in the book, Future Girl

Dear Beta Reader  (or insert their actual name here, I promised to keep their anonymous in case the book was terrible and they wanted to avoid any association with it in order to protect their academic reputation.)

Thank you so very much for volunteering to be a beta reader for my book.

You are welcome to mark up the document and return it, or simply send me a few notes. (I wanted to give them a choice depending on how they approached a paper or manuscript, some of the volunteers are accustom to line editing and I welcome that feedback, but others may just want to make a list and send it off, that is welcome as well.)

Of course, what I need is feedback to improve the book, but I do ask that before completely ravishing the prose, do offer some initial encouragement, even if you only liked the font and found the margins pleasing. (Seriously, some people do not know how to give constructive feedback, help them.  I do not want to open seven emails  and be immediately assaulted by lists of   negative comments, so I am working to protect my sometimes fragile ego ahead of time).

Please send feedback by July 19, 2013 (Give your readers a date, people work better on a deadline, it gives the project a finish time, and I will not be waiting on anyone in order to move forward with the fourth drat of the book)

Some questions  to inspire your feedback:

  • Is the heroine, Charity, believable?
  • Do you care about her journey? (Remember this has been written, more or less for a YA audience)
  • How is the future?  Did you discover inconsistencies in the invented world?
  • Does the narrative (Charity’s adventure)  make sense?
  • Does the motivation of all the characters made sense?
  • Did you like it?
  • Where should it go –  YA boutique publisher, general  ebook,  Sci-Fi POD, Boutique Science Fiction publisher?
  • Who would you give this to?  (Helps me figure out the audience)
  • What was the underlying theme?
  • Do you have an idea for a better title?

Thank you for your help!  This is the first time I’ve reached out to Beta Readers and of course you will be acknowledged and publicly appreciated.  Or if the book is horrible, I am equally happy to leave you out of it.

I reserve to use your comments on the show – Newbie Writer’s Podcast,  but won’t use your name. (I produce a weekly podcast, of course we’ll discuss this process.  If the feedback is particularly trenchant, I’ll interview the Beta Reader on the show, again, I have no wish to surprise people who are helping me).

I scheduled  the  beta reading  project to take place while I was away on a trip.  That helped prevent me from fussing and emailing my friends and family  with “have you read it?  How about now?  How about NOW?”  A distracted author means a happy reader.

Give it a try.  Some authors have enormous followings and can solicit hundreds of readers for their upcoming books, some, like me, have a few readers.  Either way, it’s worth the feedback, and will create  some early buzz for the book.

Ironically, your Beta Readers will  be some of your first customers, they will not only buy the finished product, they will be some of your best fans.

Remember that your Beta Readers are helping you out of love and/or loyalty, so remember to thank them.  A lot.  That’s what your acknowledgement page is for.  And lucky you if your book ends up with a two page acknowledgement list!

Let me know when you try this and the results.  I’ll discuss my own results when they come in.

You are welcome to re-post this article in your own blog or newsletter – please include this entire statement, “Catharine Bramkamp is a Writing Coach and podcaster, find out if you’re ready to go from  Newbie to Known visit http://www.yourbookstartshere.com or bramkamp@yahoo.com for a complimentary consultation.”

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How to Fish for Beta Readers

I don’t belong to a writing group, so when I “finished” the third draft of my novel, Future Girl, I needed opinions, readers, feedback, anything.  So I gathered a group of willing Beta Readers.  These readers are not strangers, although strangers would be ever better, much like what Guy Kawasaki does, but for me, I needed to start small.

So I contacted 15 friends in the hopes of gathering up at least five readers.

Here is the email for the invitation.

Guy Kawasaki

Guy is a genius at soliciting early readers.

Hi,

I need your help, I just finished the third draft of my Young Adult Time-Travel novel,  Future Girl (give my readers an idea of what the book is, because volunteering to read a text book is a different commitment than volunteering to read a copy for a thirty second video)  and I need a couple (so the reader knows he or she is not alone) of Beta Readers (I like Beta Reader as opposed to copy editor, or proof reader – those are more difficult jobs and are better paid)   to read the manuscript and tell me if it’s total crap or not.

If you choose to take on this project (the book is about 140 pages), I’ll send you the book in a Word doc so you can either mark it up, or save it as a PDF suitable for an e-reader. (Give them a choice as well as remind them they CAN transfer the copy to an e-reader).

I am asking for feedback – yeah or nay, by mid July (give them a rough due date in the invitation, the follow up letter will contain more instructions and a specific due date).

Interested?  Let me know, and thank you ahead of time!

Very Best,

Catharine

(I included a summary of the book in the invitation as well, so again, the reader knows what he or she is getting into, they know what to expect – much like any reader – and it forced me to start thinking about how to summarize the book, something I will need to do over and over as I promote it.)

Future Girl

On February 10, 2112 Charity Northquest has her whole future ahead of her – and the future sucks.

On February 11 she is offered the chance to fix it.

When Charity’s best friend is reported killed, but then re- appears as an old woman,  everything Charity has been taught is called into question.  Even if she doesn’t believe, the village rebellion  has already put her family in danger,  so the ill-prepared Charity is transported back to a irresistibly appealing 21st century where she must not only struggle against the  seduction of the past , but also the men who seem to help her.

Her single purpose of  changing the future fades with the increasingly more urgent question, can she survive the past?

Within 24 hours, seven of the 15 requested Beta Readers volunteered to read the book, which was very encouraging!   I immediately responded with the word doc manuscript and further ideas and instructions.

It’s a risk of  soliciting Beta Readers is you must throw your baby outdoors, you must take your brilliant idea and make it real by the very act of handing it out.  This is a huge step, congratulate yourself for doing it, for making the effort.  And I’ll keep you posted on how my experiment works.

You are welcome to re-post this article in your own blog or newsletter – please include this entire statement, “Catharine Bramkamp is a Writing Coach and podcaster, find out if you’re ready to go from  Newbie to Known visit http://www.yourbookstartshere.com or bramkamp@yahoo.com for a complimentary consultation.”

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The Value of a Writing Coach by Melinda Pierce » Writers Fun Zone

Writers Fun Zone » Blog Archive The Value of a Writing Coach by Melinda Pierce » Writers Fun Zone.

I’m sending this along because it’s a near perfect description of what a writing coach can do for your writing work!  Thank you Beth Barany for posting the interview!

Beth's blog

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Forget The Voice, authors have “The Pen.”

Day of the Book ink wellAfter following The Voice, and voting with iTune downloads, I decided that  aspiring authors need a smiliarily televised contest.

I call it “The Pen”  (cue the pyrotechnics because we hardly ever get a theme song and pyrotechnics at our poetry readings)

The judges are an eclectic representation of style and genres:

  • Leah Durham
  • David Sedaris
  • Stephen King
  • Amanda Hocking

The contestants were many and varied, but to save time, here are the final five:

  • Brad –   a mid list author who’s last two publishers shelved his Dungeons and Dragons series under the DIY section in every brick and mortar store in the country.
  • Amber –  our cute, bubbly Teen author who naturally talented even though she’s written nothing more than poetry and song lyrics before entering “the Pen”.
  • Mary Beth – the  most mature contestant, has been the president of her writing club five times, yet never published beyond the group’s own anthology.
  • Sybil –  who is  looking for a comeback after her re- tread of her last paranormal romance series as ebooks tanked.
  • Susan and Mark – the only writing team still speaking to each other in person. They write  mystery novels but their indie publisher just went bankrupt, lost the storage contract and their sales are not high enough for them to be picked up by any other publisher.

Last night the contestants read passages of their work written after a grueling week of coaching and revision with their coach.  The production value was high involving smoke machines, projections of odd gears and rain drops and sparkly stuff.

  • Amber employed a large Greek Chorus for her re-imagining of the Iliad.
  • Brad brought out a bongo ensemble to play while he read his work, Howling.  He also distributed  marijuana to all the judges in the hopes it would help.
  • Mary Beth stole the audience’s heart with her rhymed rondeau dedicated to Sprinkles, her Chihuahua.

(all rights are reserved by the production company).

American voted for their favorite author by downloading the full work from  Smashwords at .05  cents each. (All income is divided between the show sponsors and Mark Corker)

The writer who earns $100 first, wins the grand prize.

Highlights of the  feedback from the coaches after last night:

  • Leah Durham –  “Susan and Mark, it seems like you were struggling to hit that metaphor, ease off, let it speak for you.”
  • David Sedaris –  “Sybil, you had the room, that was a prefect sentence.  The best double parallelism we’ve seen all night. But you need to be funnier, you know, I’m funny.”
  • Amanda Hocking – “Amber, don’t be afraid of those compound sentences, just breath into them, and take that pause at the semi colon. Although I don’t think compound sentences earned any author much money.”
  • Stephen King –  “Mary Beth, I can’t believe the dog died, that was so moving – I know I’m not the only one here crying.”

Of course, we need  lame, behind-the-scene interviews  with the strung out contestants, here are the most publishable comments:

  • “Amber’s style is so natural,   I had a lot of red-line editing to do before tonight, but I think I’m ready.”
  • “I know I’m only 16,  but my family is really supportive.”
  • “I’m just going out there and read my work and hope American votes for me.”
  •  “I can’t believe she used the dog story.  It was a cheap shot.  I wish I thought of it.”

And the Winner  is . . .

Amber, who apparently knows more people who are familiar with the complexities of downloads.

Amber was offered a publishing contract with  “The Pen” sponsor, Penguin Books.  But after weeks  hanging out with the other contestants, Amber  opted instead for a million dollars up front and took a lucrative speaking engagement offered by Author Solutions that is in no way influenced by the sponsor.

We wish Amber the best, because like winning the Pulitzer, she will forever be introduced as “Winner of “The Pen”” before her name.  It’s quite an honor.

You are welcome to re-post this article in your own blog or newsletter – please include this entire statement, “Catharine Bramkamp is a Writing Coach and podcaster, find out if you’re ready to go from  Newbie to Known visit http://www.yourbookstartshere.com or bramkamp@yahoo.com for a complimentary consultation.”

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Five Key Book Publishing Paths

This helpful chart  from Jane Freidman came across my email and I pass it along to you.

This is an easy way to compare the different options for book publishing.  My caution is that publishing is a moving target, and what is true right now won’t be true in two years, or even in two months.  But for now, I have Jane’s permission to forward this onto my readers.  It should help!

5 Key publishing models

Visit Jane’s Blog for a larger image if necessary.

Now that you know where you want to publish, how’s the book coming?

Drop me a line (bramkamp(at)yahoo.com for a free 1/2 consultation, I promise I’ll put you on the right track.

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Hunting for an Agent Part II

A web site called Agent Hunter contacted us through Newbie Writers Podcast and asked for a review and some exposure on our show.  Listen to more of what they have to say Friday June 7.

Here are more  features of Agent Hunter I like:

Meet Agents

Some agents make themselves available to meet writers at conferences like the Writers’ Workshop Festival of Writing in York. If you want to meet agents, you can set this option to “yes” to select only those agents you have a chance of meeting face to face.

Notice when we say meet, we do not mean stalk. You are not encouraged to follow an agent around during a three day conference.

Hakone

Sometimes, everything is linked.

  • Do know who you want to sign up to meet during an agent speed dating session.
  • Do sit in on their presentation.
  • Do discover who they represent who is also at the conference and talk with THAT author.
  • Do sit  at their table during a meal.
  • Don’t trap them in the rest room
  • Don’t push your manuscript to them under the bathroom stall door  (true story).
  • Don’t follow them outside to share a smoke if you don’t smoke.

Blogs / Twitter

If an agent blogs or tweets, you can sometimes get a useful idea of who they are and what they want. If you value that kind of data, set these search terms to “Yes” to select only those agents with the relevant online profile.

If you are a fan of Twitter, do follow the agents you love!  It’s cheaper than a conference and easier to start a relationship. When to follow?  Now, even as you are creating your book. By setting up the relationship ahead of time, you’ll be poised to send off your book to the right agent, who, at the very least, will send you a more personal rejection.

On line directories and sites are very, very helpful in honing in on the best agent to pitch to.  It does take time. The most frustrating part of finding an agent is how long it can take. Overnight success is like that.

You are welcome to re-post this article in your own blog or

You are welcome to re-post this article in your own blog or  newsletter – please include this entire statement,  “Catharine Bramkamp is a Writing Coach and podcaster, find out if you’re ready to go from  Newbie to Known visit www.yourbookstartshere.com or bramkamp@yahoo.com for a complimentary consultation.” 

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Hunting for an Agent Part I

A web site called Agent Hunter contacted us through Newbie Writers Podcast and asked for a review and some exposure on our show.  Listen to more of what they have to say Friday June 7, in the mean time,  today and Thursday I’ll list a couple of features about the site and about finding an agent.

Oh, and first of all – for fiction, have the MS finished, really finished, already reviewed by friends/professional, already edited, and copy edited.  THEN you are ready to hunt down an agent.

Emily Carr's House

Emily Carr’s House – She had an agent.

For non-fiction, you’ll need a full outline and maybe the first two chapters written, and a strong proposal.

Here are features of Agent Hunter I like:

Who Represents Who

If you love an author, you can use a keyword search to see if you can locate the agent who represents that author. Do note that not all agents disclose their client lists, so the keyword search won’t work where a given client-author relationship is not public.

This is marvelous idea and well worth the visit to Agent Hunter.  Is your book “like” another author’s book? Do you write similar things?   Have you met an author who recommended you look up her agent and now you can’t remember the agent’s name?  This feature can really help, because believe it or not, that high concept pitch – my book is just like X –  is very helpful.

Likes / hates (keyword)

If you’ve written a thriller set in the Italian Alps, try searching on related keywords (Italy, thriller, mountaineering, mountains, Alps, etc) to see if you can locate a thriller addicted mountaineering agent. We get likes / dislikes data direct from agents and from other published sources.

Again, what a good idea.  I’ve talked with agents who really, really resent listing what they like, announcing what they like, handing out business cards with the list on the back of what they like and they still receive pitches for books that have nothing to do with what they like.

I had the misfortune of meeting with an agent who said he only dealt with macho books filled with car chases and explosions.  I held a manuscript filled with relationship angst.  Terrible fit,  but I was devastated anyway.  Sending your precious book to the wrong agent can set you back weeks or even months.  Don’t do it.  Set yourself up for success!

Read more in two days.

You are welcome to re-post this article in your own blog or

You are welcome to re-post this article in your own blog or  newsletter – please include this entire statement,  “Catharine Bramkamp is a Writing Coach and podcaster, find out if you’re ready to go from  Newbie to Known visit www.yourbookstartshere.com or bramkamp@yahoo.com for a complimentary consultation.” 

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