Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sneaks and Storytellers: Which Are You?

Publishing folk live in one of two homes:

1) STORYTELLERS: The Hobbit Hole

The first type of folk live in a cozy hobbit hole. STORYTELLERS sniff book pages. STORYTELLERS love finding typos but don't throw it in your face. STORYTELLERS read, read, read. Or edit, edit, edit. Or write. Or draw.

2) SNEAKS: The Rat Hole

Need I tell you what lives in a rat hole? Beware. SNEAKS use publishing to funnel money--without offering quality in return. Beware the individual who owns both a literary agency and a publishing house. Never go into a contract you don't fully understand. Never pay for "traditional publishing." Never pay an "agent" monthly. Never trust the SNEAK who can't give you a straight answer. There are some dishonest folk out there. Always trust your gut.

My upcoming blogposts will feature STORYTELLERS I admire and have met. Check out the awesome and sometimes embarrassing run-ins I've had. Have you had any?

Now you know the sneaks from the storytellers. Which one are you?

Further reading:

Scam case studies:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

5 Avoidable Cover Letter Blunders

We've all sat down to write that one-chance, first-impression letter to someone we admire. Editors, agents, and prospective employers are all recipients of our love mail: The Cover Letter. Let me share some avoidable blunders I've found in my perpetual days of reading.

Top 5 Cover Letter Blunders:

#1: A Disgruntled Voice

The mood you are in while writing the cover letter will shine through. So, write after you've just had the tastiest meal of your life, made by an endearing husband/brother/friend, in a land where dirty dishes disappear and reincarnate as clean ones in your cupboard.

#2: Not Enough Information or Materials

Have a stellar bibliography. Better yet, have an expert in the field read your work for accuracy. Your editor will pee a little bit when some verification has already been done. Verification of facts can be important in fiction, too.

Make it easy for the editor to respond to you! Rachelle Gardner, literary agent, prefers a signature with a first and last name so she knows how to address you. Initials don't convey gender, and that's nervewracking. Mr.? Mrs.? Ms.? Miss? Dr.? Professor? Knight? Queen? Dignitary?!

#3: Annoying Typeface

Ouch! Small type hurts. Your reader might not realize she's squinting, but it will surely affect her concentration and patience.

Use serif fonts. Serifs are the little swoops on the edges of letters. They help our brains recognize the letters faster, making for an easier read. Sans serif fonts (without serifs) are reserved for bold titles and billboards. They provide some contrast.

#4: Sending to the Wrong Publisher

I'm a big fan of submitting until your ears bleed. But if you know the publisher would never print your genre, maybe you should just be friends.

#5: Addressing to a General Reader

Addressing your letter to a "general reader," "submissions coordinator," or the like will add one more step to your manuscript's perilous journey. Addressing it to an editor by name will get it straight into her hands. Just quadruple check the spelling of her name!

For books, send to an imprint first. If the imprint says "no," you still have a chance with the main house or its other imprints.

Further reading:

See Harold Underdown's "Getting Out of the Slush Pile" at

See an interview with Arthur Levine of Scholastic's Arthur A. Levine books at

See Rachelle Gardners's blog at and follow her on Twitter at @RachelleGardner,