Posts Tagged With: information for writers

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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Newbie Writer Podcast Guest Carly Findlay

Thank you Carly Findlay at carlyfindlay.blogspot.com for being a great guest on Newbie Writers.  She had a few bits of advice for bloggers:

  • Just start writing
  • Stay with it

    Gouger Cellars Grand Opening this Weekend

    Gouger Cellars Grand Opening this Weekend which has nothing to do with writing and everything to do with wine

  • Write about what you like
  • Don’t let it become a chore
  • Sign up for social media
  • A writing career is 40 percent marketing, so  use social media
  • If you are using twitter, a strategy is to be considered a   trusted source, so people follow you  in order to get the information they need.
  • And of course, the twitter and the facebook and the linked in all direct followers to your blog!

And if you want to know if your book has what it takes,

Contact me for your complimentary consultation and book – Start Your Book Now

Bramkamp@yahoo.com

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Why listen to me? From an abortive interview on blog talk radio

 

I agreed to an interview on a blog talk podcast.  The podcaster was just beginning to get the hang of podcasting, and I’m happy to help fledging efforts.

Except the show was double booked.

I phoned in, and the host greeted me, then proceeded to interview someone else entirely, leaving me in that limbo where you don’t know if you should check out, mute and feed the dog, or butt in.

I listened for half hour and was never acknowledged.

The dog went hungry.Tulip Tree

What went wrong?

If you want to create a podcast about your book, go for it.  But I anticipate that you may get bored just talking to yourself, so you’ll want to invite guests, just to liven up your hour or half hour podcast.

Once you incorporate guests, you must also incorporate that most complex organization system known to writers – the calendar.  Keep track of your guests.  And while you’re at it, keep track of their information and emails.

Newbie Writers Podcast uses a Google Calendar so my partner Damien can  see what I’ve scheduled without asking.

Send a confirmation to your guests a few days ahead of time, it helps them remember and helps YOU remember who’s calling into the podcast.

That said, have a few back up shows you can implement  in case the guest bails.

In a blog talk environment, you don’t have timing control so have a clear idea of what you want to hear from the guest, and keep to one theme or subject.

In my case during this blog talk podcast, the first guest took up the whole half hour show time, which was not necessarily a problem, but if that happen,  send a quick note right at that moment to apologize to the silent guest and re schedule.

I had a situation where my partner over slept because his time change in Australia (from Fall to Winter) occurs during a different week than the CA time change (from Winter to Spring).  Our guest was ready to interview at exactly 3:30 and couldn’t wait and talk at a later time.   We simply cancelled   and I immediately re-scheduled the guest.

Guests do spend time organizing their thoughts and making room in their schedule to talk with you.  Do be conscious of their time; it’s professional and polite.

Conversely, last week my partner developed a hideous cold, plus the scheduled guest wrote and asked if we could interview him at 6:00 PM PDT instead of 4:00 PDT.  Nope.  We too are on a schedule.  So if your guest can’t accommodate the times of your show, it’s perfectly okay to firmly and nicely say no and either reschedule or realize that this guest may not work out.

In this business sometimes it’s you, and sometimes it’s me.

I’m thinking it’s mostly you.

 

Sign into the live feed during the Newbie Writers Podcast – Friday, 4:00 PM PDT.

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Don’t Do This!

Books out doorsWhat we don’t read  can be as instructive as what we do.

I found this Linked In post in my in box:

This is Interesting

“Hmm, where do I even begin? There is so much to share. I am so blessed every day and I just hope I can remember everything that has happened!  When so much awesomeness happens I am compelled to immediately share with with you all here, as it is most fitting and want to share my good news with you all!  This month my recovery…”

– from a real linked-in post but I altered the details 

In this Linked- In post, the headline is the best part.  But the opening narrative is ineffective and a turn off.  We are not, on any level, compelled to read anything more.  So the writer could be announcing the end of the world, and we’d miss it, because she didn’t start her post well.

A long time ago writers commanded  enough page space to be able to “clear our throats” , we had time to set up a comment or explain all the points necessary for an essay to really sing.

But now we don’t.

Those opening lines cannot be wasted, they are the critical and arguably the most important part of a post or a blog. They must   grab the reader’s attention. And with this post, by the time I read to the third line – I was out, I  did not have the time to listen to the writer’s thinking process.

The solution is easy.  Do clear your throat.  Write all that introductory material because it helps focus the work and gets you really into your subject.  But before you post the work, delete those opening sentences and just start with something interesting like zombies invaded my home last night!  It’s the end of the world.

I guarantee  you I will continue to read.

Do you have a novel in you?

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  • Includes: copy of  Start Your Book
  • ½ hour  consultation with Catharine
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Possibly Not Really Productive

Cologne TypewriterWhen I’ve been spending more time reading blogs and newsletters than  writing my material, I feel like my son who used to sit very still and quietly in class.  The teacher was thrilled he wasn’t making trouble, and he wasn’t.  Of course, he wasn’t learning anything either.

For weeks I’ve been sitting quietly at the computer – typing, reading and generally looking very engaged and busy. And I am thrilled with all the work I’ve been doing.  But I haven’t really accomplished a damn thing.

Writers and creatives are at risk for miserable failure if we don’t  understand the difference between being busy and being productive.

Because distinguishing between the two can be tricky.

Sometimes an afternoon of reading was spent  gathering ideas,  researching and catching up with industry trends.   Ot it’s a  colossal waste of time.

Conversely, in a traditional job, taking a walk in the middle of the afternoon, chatting in the break room, standing around in the hallway, is considered goofing off.  For a writer, those exchanges, especially the walks, are critical to real production.

Day dreaming is productive

Checking Facebook is not.

Lunch with a friend, or better, lunch with a fellow writer, is productive.

Eating at your desk, compulsively answering every email is just exhausting and will give you heartburn.

Since Just sitting at the computer does not necessarily mean you are accomplishing anything, how do you know you have been productive?

The increasing word count on the novel is a big indicator.

Another indicator is how tired you are.  Not emotionally exhausted, or frustrated but tired.

Writing is a full body activity; we lean in, we tense up.  We hurt ourselves because we’ve held a crouching tiger position for hours as we bang on the keyboard or scratch with our pens.  We get carpal tunnel and bursitis and leg cramps.  And paper cuts, but I never get any sympathy for those.

Are you exhausted  because you’ve spent the morning in the zone?

Or are you just emotionally exhausted from a project  that has been over thought to death?

Did you finish up your work at exactly 5:00 and think, GOD I need a drink, I’m so finished with this.

Or did you finish for the day because a power failure killed the computer and stopped you cold?  But you unearthed a flashlight and notebook and continued?

Set this idea of  being busy aside, and tap into your passion;  allow it to drive the process instead of over  thinking it.  Put  away the to do list, turn off the alerts for email and Facebook and just focus on the book, even if only for   ten minutes.

It may be the most productive part of your day.

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