Monday, October 24, 2016

Encore presentation: WRITERLY WISDOM


***I have a number of writing deadlines coming up over the next couple of months so I have decided instead of stepping away from my blog completely to concentrate solely on my writing, I will bring back an encore performance of my WRITERLY WISDOM series from three years ago. WW is 52 glorious posts by authors, agents, and editors from around the country providing writerly wisdom in categories from why even become a writer all the way to how to publish and market your books.

There will be two posts loaded per week...Mondays & be sure to stop by and check out all the encouraging information given by my lovely writerly friends! I hope you enjoy the encore presentation of my WRITERLY WISDOM series and I will return with shiny, new posts in the fall!***
ACTION CALL TO AUTHORS: Get Visible, Get Known, And Get Sales!
Eight tips for building an author platform with online tools

by Elizabeth H Cottrell

Congratulations on getting that book written and published! Now “all” you have to do is get it out in front of people so they’ll buy it.  Of course, many consider this the hardest part, but there’s no place to start except from where you are, and one step at a time will move you in the right direction towards your goal of increasing your visibility as an author and selling your book.
Marketing in general—and book marketing in particular—is changing daily, and while that can feel overwhelming, I want you to remember people are still people, and they still prefer to buy things from people they “know, like, and trust.” In some ways, that’s no different than it was in our grandparents’ generation, but now we have some fantastic new tools to get the job done. Your mindset should not be on selling your book, but rather on building an army of true fans who’ll be ready to buy your next book before it’s even out. (See Kevin Kelly’s seminal article entitled “1000 True Fans.”) This is the essence of relationship marketing.
It’s important to spend some time reflecting on your audience or target market. Who are they, and where do they “hang out”? The answers to these questions will help you prioritize your marketing activities. A friend who served on a bank board with me used to say, “If you want to hunt ducks, you’ve got to go where the ducks are.” So true! If you already have a blog, Google Analytics can help you identify where your followers are coming from. Facebook Page Insights is becoming very useful for telling you where your page visitors have come from. 
While there are many offline ways to promote your book, this article will focus on ways to harness the power of the Internet to gain visibility and book sales.
What’s an author platform and why do I need to build one?
An author platform is one thing your grandparents would envision differently, and of course we’re not talking about a stage built of wood. Your author platform can be thought of as a rocket launch pad from which you’ll send your books out into the world. But mostly, it’s your brand—a brand built with readers and potential fans one relationship at a time, using many different techniques:
1. Creating a web presence with a website and blog

2. Building your email list of true fans so you can stay in touch with them

3. Responsive and regular activity on your favorite social media platform

4. Posting your biographical profile wherever you can

5. Activity in relevant forums and groups and commenting on appropriate blogs

6. Regular cultivation of reviewers, bloggers, and journalists

7. Learning from your peers

8. Turning your readers into ambassadors

We’ll talk about each of these in more detail shortly. Some will appeal to you more than others and could be considered optional. Some are pretty essential. All can make a difference, and I’d suggest you do all of them at one time or another.
But I’m an author, not a marketer!
Sorry, but unless you’re a blockbuster best-selling author, you’d better be both. Don’t let the idea scare you. Just think of every present or future reader as a present or future friend, and you’ll grasp the right mindset for relationship marketing: making authentic connections and nurturing them until they become true fans.
Isn’t my publisher supposed to market my book for me?
If you’re one of the relatively few published authors who actually have a publisher, they may promote your book through ads and media. But more and more, they rely on authors to work their own connections and relationships to promote their books. In fact, many publishers will only sign on new authors who bring an existing author platform with them.
Start marketing your book before it’s finished
Whenever possible, build buzz before your book is even available. Start talking about your book on your social media channels. You can even create a Facebook page for the book to get conversations started early. Some authors are brilliant at getting their fans involved in contributing ideas or even direction and content for their book. When John Maxwell wrote Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, he used his blog to ask for stories and input from his readers for months before the book was published. He didn’t include everyone’s comment, but he did list every person’s name insider the cover. He even included a thumbnail photo of them.
Action steps to build a robust author platform
1. Create a professional website/blog and keep it up to date.

If you don’t have a website already, I highly recommend you consider a website. While you still have to purchase hosting and a domain name, Wordpress itself is free, and it offers a very robust content management system that makes it easy to create pages and blog posts and even sell things from the site. You simply must have your own “digital real estate” that you control yourself. More importantly, with just a bit of Wordpress experience, you can add and change content yourself without having to hire a webmaster to do it for you. It’s usually worth getting some professional help with the set-up so it doesn’t look homespun, but why be at a webmaster’s mercy for ongoing changes if you don’t have to?
Your website and the content you put on it will allow the search engines to find you and become more visible online. Use keywords in your headlines, pages and posts that match what your target market is looking for.
Make sure your website content “sounds” like you. I’m a fan of Craig Johnson’s Longmire books, and his website has several features that help the visitor get to know him. There are lots of pictures and an “Interrogation” page that consists of an interview with the author that is very revealing of his quirks and personality.
Here are some other website features than can help with the site’s “stickiness” and increase your visibility:
·      Blog: If you think you can post regularly to a blog (minimum monthly but better weekly), it can be become a very effective way to increase your visibility. This is a great place to answer reader questions (or imagined questions). You can also use it to provide your back-story for your book. Don’t forget to list your blog on Kindle so Kindle users can subscribe to it there:
·      Email opt-in box: See #1 below for more on this. In addition to an opt-in box in your sidebar, you might also want to create a whole landing page that incorporates an opt-in box along with an invitation to your readers to get free updates or a special offer. You can use a link to this page in your Facebook or other advertising.
·      Video: Video is a powerful way to get people to build that “know, like, and trust” factor more quickly. Think about it. When you go to a website and there is a short welcome video from the author, especially when it’s sincere and warm, you start feeling good about them and more interested in what they’ve written. You begin to feel as though you know them personally. Virtually every cell phone, camera, and computer now has video capability, so you no longer have to spend lots of money to create a simple, effective video. Lou Bortone is my go-to guy for video marketing information and training. 
·      Media Page: Make it easy for an interested person to get information about you, especially journalists or bloggers. This might be on your Contact Page or it might be a separate “Media” tab of your menu that takes a journalist or media representative to lots of information they might need to write about you. This could include biographical facts, recognitions, high-resolution photos, quotes, and excerpts.
·      Extra value content: Some authors use their website to enhance the value of their book by adding more content just for readers. For fiction, this might be an author interview about the book. A short prequel or sequel can be enticing, as can some additional background information about your characters. For nonfiction, your website could include additional information, charts, and graphs that further elaborate on the topic of your book. Give readers a URL for this information right at the end of your book. 
Here’s a useful article called “Ten Author Websites That Really Do The Business” by Simon Appleby. It spotlights ten effective author websites. Besides looking at the sites, read the comments for each one to see what the article author considers pros and cons. 
2. Build an Email list

This should be a high priority for anyone with an online presence. Denise Wakeman, co-founder of The Future of Ink website, considers it among the top five essential elements for selling more books. As she stated in a recent article,
“Without an email list of qualified prospects and customers, you will always struggle to sell your book. The people who give you their email address are telling you they value what you offer and want to hear from you.”
Here’s her complete article:
A reputable email service provider will not only save you time and headaches, but it will also ensure you don’t run afoul of spam regulations. You can create customized lists if your wish (e.g. a separate list for each book you write), and the tools offered by your provider will make it easy to send messages, newsletters, or updates to your followers. I started with MailChimp for free. Since I also do affiliate marketing, I have since moved to Aweber. Other reputable email service providers include Constant Contact, KickStartCart, and InsfusionSoft. 
The email sign-up form (a.k.a. opt-in box) usually appears in your website/blog sidebar. Wordpress makes this very easy with its sidebar widget functionality. Sign-ups increase if you offer a free digital download in return for your prospect giving you their first name and email. This could be an excerpt from your latest book or a short report on the topic of your book. This is sometimes referred to as “ethical bait.”
3. Get active on at least two or three social media platforms.

As I write this article, the “big four” social media platforms are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn, but Pinterest and Google+ are not far behind. YouTube goes hand-in-hand with the others, because it is the best place to upload your videos and then get YouTube’s embed code to place them on your website or talk about them on your other social media platforms.
Don’t get involved in more social media platforms than you can handle, because it’s very important for you to monitor them and respond to comments and questions from fans and readers. Learn how to “listen” to what’s being said about you, your book, or the topic of your book. This article “4 Steps to Create a Social Listening Strategy” by Sandy Carter on can help you get started. 
Never underestimate how thrilled your readers will be when they can actually have a conversation directly with the book’s author. I write a lot of book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Often an author will leave me a message thanking me for my review. I’m always impressed and appreciative when they make this kind of effort. They’re paying attention and they’re hustling. You should be too.
Consider creating a Facebook Page for each one of your books. This is the perfect place for fans to come and ask questions about the plot or the characters, and this is where you can start conversations with your fans that make them feel you are accessible and likable. I’ve listed an article by Wes Locher in the Resources section below on other ways to use Facebook to promote your book.
4. Post your biographical profile wherever you can

Every social media platform offers the ability to create a detailed personal profile. Here’s your chance to shine! Be real and don’t be afraid to be authentically quirky. If drinking a glass of red wine puts you in the mood to write, tell your readers. It helps them know you and like you.
Don’t forget these important places for establishing your presence with a profile. 
·      Author Central on Amazon: Besides a place to put biographical information, there is a great deal of functionality here too, including the ability to add RSS feeds for your blog or other sites.
·      Goodreads Author Program: There is a great deal of interaction between authors and readers on this site. Read the instructions about it on Goodreads to learn how to take advantage of it. Wes Locher has written a helpful and practical article “Promoting Your Book Online through Social Networking:”  

· This is an Amazon version of Goodreads, but most authors don’t find it as helpful for promoting their book. Here’s another good article by Wes Locher, this one about using Shelfari to promote your book:
·      Google – if you use Gmail, you already have a Google account, but if not, create one. Make sure you’ve filled out all the profile information. When your Google name appears, it is clickable and goes to this information. Learn more here:
Even places like TripAdvisor and many other commercial sites offer you a personal profiles when you register with them. Whenever you get a chance, let people know you’re an author and how they can learn more about you. You may also find some directories in which to add a listing by searching for “directories for book authors” in your search engine’s search box.
5. Find forums and groups in your field and comment on relevant blogs

This may be more useful for nonfiction books, but if you can find a forum where people are discussing topics related to your book, you may have an opportunity to add value to their community and become known for your expertise by the forum members. Use Google or another search engine to search for “forum+your topic or niche.
It’s extremely important to abide by forum rules. While most will prohibit direct promotion, many do allow you to create a signature that shows up every time you write a post. Here’s an example:
Jane Doe
Contributing author, Book Title
Facebook and LinkedIn both have hundreds of groups you may ask to join. In both cases, log in first, and then use the platform search box to enter keywords such as “book marketing” or “book promotion.” In LinkedIn, you can select “Groups” from the drop down box to the left of the search box. Most groups will require you to request to join.
Commenting on other blogs can be a surprisingly effective strategy, especially if it’s done thoughtfully and respectfully, without pushing your book. Be sure you have a account that links your thumbnail photo with any emails you might use when you register at a blog. When you leave a comment, not only will your picture show up, but your user name will be a live link to whatever website URL you have entered in your registration. If your comments are interesting and thought provoking, readers may become interested enough to click on the link and learn more about you.
6. Cultivate reviewers, bloggers, and journalists

Every time you are mentioned in an article, a blog post, a Facebook post, or a tweet—either positively or negatively—it increases your visibility to an entirely new group of people. It makes sense to cultivate relationships with those who have their own large audience and who can help you spread the word. Reviewers, bloggers, and journalists are at the top of this list. 
In #5 above, I mentioned the importance of leaving comments on other blogs, including blogs that review books. Bloggers love to get substantive comments that add value to the conversation about their post. If you become a regular commenter, believe me, most bloggers will notice.
In #4 above, I included links for getting on listed on Amazon, Goodreads, and Shelfari. These links also include information about how to leverage those sites and their easy access to readers and reviewers to get more visibility.
Here’s an outstanding article by Penny Sansevieri called “How to Get Reviews by the Truckload on Amazon.”  She gives quite a few very clever and different strategies for approaching those who write book reviews on Amazon.
Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound, has several blog posts about what to do—and what not to do—when pitching to journalists and bloggers:
HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is a great way to learn about journalists who are looking for information or people to interview for an article they’re writing. It’s free to sign up, and you can select getting notices in specific categories. These are usually quite time-sensitive, so check them regularly. 
7. Learn from your peers

This overlaps with other items on this list, but it bears repeating. Don’t reinvent the wheel when you can learn what has worked for others trying to do the same thing you are. Interact with peers in groups, forums, and online webinars. I’ve listed some terrific resources below that will get you started.
8. Turn your readers into ambassadors

Many authors forget to do one simple thing that can make a big difference in sales: ask the reader who has just finished your book to tell their friends via social media or word-of-mouth. Right then…while they’re thinking about it. 
Virtually all the strategies I’ve discussed in this article can contribute to building relationships with your readers and turning them into true fans. Then they become an invisible sales team, telling others about you while you sleep!
Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed!
This may all feel like more than you can do, but don’t let it discourage you. Not all of these things will be relevant to your particular situation or suit your particular personality or modus operandi. Just do something—take baby steps—on a regular basis to build your author platform, and a year from now, you’ll be amazed at the results. Of course, if you decide to take massive action, you’ll get results even more quickly.
And remember, whatever effort you make to build your author platform will help position you to get much faster results when you publish your next book!
What tips for building an author platform can you share with readers of this blog? Please comment below.
Resources for book marketing
Book Marketing Made Easy website: D’vorah Lansky is both an author and a book marketing wizard. She brings in experts to contribute to her blog and does terrific industry expert interviews that are informative and helpful for authors trying to increase their visibility. 
The Future of Ink website: Founded by Denise Wakeman and Ellen Britt, this site offers a wealth of information from industry experts on all aspects of digital publishing, book marketing, book production, and much more. Use the categories or search box to find exactly what you want. They launched the first contest for identifying the Top 10 Self-Publishing Blogs for 2012:

Locher, Wes. “5 Titles on Book Marketing and Promotion that You Need to Read.” Musings on Minutiae website:
Locher, Wes. “Promoting Your Book Online through Social Networking:” Musings on Minutiae website: Note links at the end to corresponding articles about other platforms for promoting your book. 
The Publicity Hound website: Joan Stewart offers a tremendous amount of information, both free and paid, on every aspect of marketing and publicity imaginable. 
Robley, Chris. “The 6 Best Book Marketing Blogs.” September 12, 2013:
Sanderson, Karen R., The Word Shark. Karen’s blog includes some excellent advice on branding and platform:
Social Media Examiner website: “Your guide to the social media jungle.” Founded by Michael Stelzner, this searchable site has everything you ever wanted to know about how to use social media properly and effectively. Guest bloggers include industry experts, and their training events are always value-packed. 
Author’s Note: Some links are the author’s affiliate links, but she only recommends people or products she has used herself, and in no instance would your purchase cost more than if you used a regular link.

Elizabeth is a writer, author, and master connector and encourager. She is founder of and, where she spotlights the power of Connection in both personal and professional life. Her freelance writing and services are featured at She is a former leprosy researcher, a bank board member, a community activist, an Extra Class amateur radio operator, and a note-writing evangelist. Become a better Connector and opt in to receive her future Connection updates by using the easy sidebar opt-in boxes on any or all of her sites.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Encore presentation: WRITERLY WISDOM


***I have a number of writing deadlines coming up over the next couple of months so I have decided instead of stepping away from my blog completely to concentrate solely on my writing, I will bring back an encore performance of my WRITERLY WISDOM series from three years ago. WW is 52 glorious posts by authors, agents, and editors from around the country providing writerly wisdom in categories from why even become a writer all the way to how to publish and market your books.

There will be two posts loaded per week...Mondays & be sure to stop by and check out all the encouraging information given by my lovely writerly friends! I hope you enjoy the encore presentation of my WRITERLY WISDOM series and I will return with shiny, new posts in the fall!***
 Getting Schooled About School Visits
by Marcie Colleen

So we’re going to talk about school visits.  But first, let’s quickly squash negativity and acknowledge the elephants in the room.

I am sure you have heard…

1)  Because of stringent budget cuts, schools have very little money to spend on author visits these days. 

2)  Because of the Common Core State Standards, teachers have very little classroom time to devote to special events like author visits.

So we should all just give up the idea of school visits, right? WRONG!

You see, school visits to kidlit authors are like crowd-surfing to a rockstar.  It’s the perfect way to connect with our audience on an intimate level.  In fact, these visits have the power, if done right, to transform even the most reluctant child into a lifelong reader and maybe even a writer.

“Hello, Elephant!”

It is true that with a majority of focus being devoted to the Common Core State Standards, instructional time is scarce.  And, with increased budget constraints, there isn’t a lot of money.

“So then how do you propose we do school visits, Marcie?”

I’m glad you asked. 

Today I give you two tips that will set you on the path to successful school trips.

1)  Make it as easy as possible for the teachers

2)   Give teachers the biggest bang for their buck

Let’s break these both down individually.

Make it as easy as possible for the teachers.  

Yes.  Teachers are overworked and underappreciated.  And although they might really want to bring you into their classroom, sometimes it just seems like way too much for work them.  How can you make it easier?

·       Provide a FREE downloadable Teacher’s Guide or a few lesson plans.  Not only can teachers use these materials to quickly introduce your book to their class, they can also use these materials as a validation for your school visit.  No longer will they have to write a proposal or spend hours in a meeting convincing their department or administration that your book has value.  The Teacher’s Guide or lesson plan packet will do the convincing for them.

·       Create a Pre-Visit Package.  I was recently reading How to Promote Your Children’s Book by Katie Davis.  First off, I highly recommend this e-book.  The chapter on School Visits is very informative.  In it, Davis discusses her “school visits packet” that she provides before the actual visit.  This package includes posters to hang all over the school announcing the upcoming event, “backpack flyers” to send home with the kids, and a handy checklist which lays out what the teacher can do in the 6 weeks leading up to the visit!  Again, we are making it easy for the teachers and in doing so, you will be hyping kids up and getting them (and the teacher) invested in your visit.  This is priceless and well worth the few hours it will take to initially develop these materials.

·       Make your visit affordable.  I said AFFORDABLE, not FREE! That’s right.  I don’t believe you should be doing these visits for free, but you can provide a few options that schools can choose from based on their financial situation.  Skype visits can be a wonderful option and cut down on travel costs.  Having two schools share the cost for a combined workshop at a host location is another option.  Or giving discounts for second school referrals or second day workshops can provide incentive for the school to save money while also garnering you more work.  The key here is to provide options that are fair to both you and the school.

    Give teachers the biggest bang for their buck.  
      So, you are not going to do school visits for free which means you have homework to do.  That’s right.  Reading your fabulous picture book to the class of 25 first graders will take all of 5-10 minutes.  Not good enough for a school visit.  Time to get creative.

·       Shadow a successful school presenter. Learn from the best.  Before you baptize yourself with fire, think again.  Are there other authors in your area who you might be able to accompany on a future visit?  Ask them!  I have learned that the kidlit community is very generous.  The worst they can say is no.  And maybe if you can’t actually go to the school with them, you can at least pick their brain to help you plan your own presentation.  Another wonderful resource is Alexis O’Neill’s website.  Alexis is the goddess of school visits!  Learn from her. 

·       Remember it’s a presentation!  Although the “best of the best” make presenting look easy and off-the-cuff, it is a presentation.  Meaning, you have to prepare.  And if you are going into schools and kids are involved, nothing is predictable.  So be armed with a presentation which will serve as your plan to success.  Nothing will take as long as you think it will.  That “introductory speech” about who you are and where your ideas come from that you think will take up the first 15 minutes will only take 3.  Therefore, plan and over plan. 

·       Always include a hands-on component.  This is where you can slow things down and make a 5 minute activity into a 15 minute activity.  So, develop a craft or a writing assignment (taking into consideration the age of the students) that fits your book.  It’s a wonderful way to take the spotlight off of you, if you have a little stage fright.  I recently attended a bookstore event.  The author was kind of shy, yet she handled the session beautifully.  First, she gave a little background on herself and the creation of her book.  She followed with a reading of the picture book.  And then, she taught a simple craft that tied into the theme of the book.  Suddenly she didn’t have to be “onstage” anymore and was able to sit on the floor and engage with her biggest fans.  In addition, kids and teachers love it when they have something concrete to keep after the visit.

Even if you are not currently published you can start to develop your plan for successful school visits.  Hopefully the tips above will help.  But most importantly, remember…this is school so DO YOUR HOMEWORK and you’ll be crowd-surfing visiting schools in no time!

Marcie Colleen is the Education Consultant for Picture Book Month. She has been in education for 18 years with a bachelor’s degree in Education of English and Language Arts from Oswego State University and a Master’s degree in Educational Theater from New York University.  She is a former New York classroom teacher and has served as a curriculum creator for the Central New York Institute of Aesthetic Education, Syracuse Stage, Tony Randall’s National Actors Theater, and various Broadway and Off-Broadway shows.  She was the Director of Education for TADA! Youth Theater in NYC creating and managing educational programming reaching over 30,000 students and families in the NYC Metro area a year.  Her Teacher’s Guides for picture books and middle grade novels can be found at

Monday, October 17, 2016

Encore presentation: WRITERLY WISDOM

***I have a number of writing deadlines coming up over the next couple of months so I have decided instead of stepping away from my blog completely to concentrate solely on my writing, I will bring back an encore performance of my WRITERLY WISDOM series from three years ago. WW is 52 glorious posts by authors, agents, and editors from around the country providing writerly wisdom in categories from why even become a writer all the way to how to publish and market your books.

There will be two posts loaded per week...Mondays & be sure to stop by and check out all the encouraging information given by my lovely writerly friends! I hope you enjoy the encore presentation of my WRITERLY WISDOM series and I will return with shiny, new posts in the fall!***
The Importance Of Having A Blog Tour
by Terri Rocheski

Let’s face it – in today’s publishing world of ebooks, if you have no online presence you’re doomed to fail sales-wise. You not only need to get your cover out there, but yourself as well. I’m not talking about just setting up a twitter account and a Facebook page either. I’m talking BLOG TOUR.

What is a blog tour?

A virtual book signing. It’s ‘visiting’ various blogs with guest posts, author or character interviews, tens lists, excerpts, giveaways – or any other idea a host might throw at you. My favorite requested post was a letter to one of my characters. Doing so gave me an incredible insight into him, and made for better scenes in the sequel I was working on.

So, how do you set up a tour?

I use a google doc sign up / spreadsheet to keep my hosts and posts organized, but you can simply print out a calendar page – heck, write the dates of the tour down – and record peeps who agree to host you on those. Compile those email addresses and send them a media kit (I do a word doc) with the blurb, purchase links, bio, personal links, Goodreads link to your book, and the rafflecopter code or link if you’re doing a giveaway. Don’t forget to attach the cover and head shot of yourself as well.

How do you find hosts???

Do you belong to any online groups? Yahoo, WANA, critique sites, Goodreads, Book Blogs – go a’beggin! Contact review sites as well. There are countless ones out there, and you’ll find a lot are more than willing to help out. Don’t shy away if the blog only has 150 followers, either. Check to see how consistent they are and if people comment. THAT is a sign of a successful blog.

One of the most important things I can say … visit your host on post day. Thank them in the comments, and be sure to subscribe to those comments. Respond to everyone else who takes the time to read whatever your fingers typed up. Even if they don’t stop back to read your reply, it shows others that you’re proactive in the tour, that you’re likeable and worth following.

Heck. It’s polite!

Twice now, I’ve run two tours for myself at the same time. I’ll admit that it’s easy for me since I’m so crazy organized – like sick organized. This is why Roane Publishing asked me to become involved in their marketing department. Now I get to set up blog tours for fun.

Yes. FUN. I’m having a blast.

How ‘bout you? Blog tour or no blog tour? Questions? Need suggestions? Shoot me an email. I’m all about helping my fellow author.  terrirochenski at yahoo dot com,

Terri Rocheski started writing stories in the 8th grade, when a little gnome whispered in her brain. Gundi’s Great Adventure never hit the best seller list, but it started a long love affair with storytelling.

Today she enjoys an escape to Middle Earth during the rare ‘me’ moments her two young daughters allow. When not playing toys, picking them back up, or kissing boo-boos, she can be found sprawled on the couch with a book or pencil in hand, and toothpicks propping her eyelids open.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Encore presentation: WRITELY WISDOM

***I have a number of writing deadlines coming up over the next couple of months so I have decided instead of stepping away from my blog completely to concentrate solely on my writing, I will bring back an encore performance of my WRITERLY WISDOM series from three years ago. WW is 52 glorious posts by authors, agents, and editors from around the country providing writerly wisdom in categories from why even become a writer all the way to how to publish and market your books.

There will be two posts loaded per week...Mondays & be sure to stop by and check out all the encouraging information given by my lovely writerly friends! I hope you enjoy the encore presentation of my WRITERLY WISDOM series and I will return with shiny, new posts in the fall!***
By Patricia Hope

There are as many ways to write a query letter as there are editors to read them. After a lifetime of reading and writing them, I think most editors would agree writers should follow a few common-sense guidelines if they want their query letter to be read and responded to in a positive way.

A writer feasts or starves on ideas, said Robert J Hastings in his book How I Write. So do editors. That’s not to say they don’t get lots of ideas but good ideas are often turned down because the writer didn’t spend enough time presenting his idea. The following list is 10 of the things I’ve learned about writing query letters after decades of writing and selling articles, both for print and online publications. As a former newspaper editor, I’ve read my share of queries, as well. It would take many blogs to give you examples of what some writers have said to make editors say no, but hopefully, this list will help you get more yeses.

 Do your homework. 

      Read the publications’ guidelines, if available, and follow them to the letter. If no guidelines are available, read several issues of the publication so you will know what style of writing it uses and what subject matter it covers. When I queried The Writer a few years ago on the idea of writing about my own writing critique group, I had been reading the magazine for more than 20 years, yet, I carefully read and re-read their guidelines.

      Begin with Why

      Every good writer knows you must have the “who, what, where, when and why” to tell a good story. But first, “Why do you want to write this story? Why did you choose this publication?” Be honest in evaluating why this story matters to you and your potential readers. My “why” for the writing group piece was because we had been together 30 years and we had all reached success as writers.

      Keep the query to one page. 

      An editor sifting through hundreds of letters and emails will be grateful. That’s basically four or maybe five paragraphs. The first two paragraphs should say why you think your idea is good for this publication and who is involved, what they are doing or have done, where all this takes place, and when it happened or will happen. The why should become obvious as you explain what your article is about.

      Don’t be cutesy or sloppy. 

      No colored paper or flashing emails. Be as straightforward and professional as you can be, whether sending a query by snail mail or email, be sure you check and re-check, things like grammar, spelling, capitalization, formatting, tenses, everything. Your query Letter is a prelude of what your article will be. It’s your salesman with his foot in the door. Don’t blow the only opportunity you might have with this publication by being sloppy.

      Never address the query to “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern.” 

      Know the editor’s name and the correct spelling. It’s your job. This information should be on the masthead of the publication but if you can’t find it any other way, call the company and and get the spelling of both first and last names.

      Do enough research to know where your finished piece is going. 

      Try to think of what your story opening would be. Something made you want to write about this idea. What makes your angle unique? My opening that got me an assignment from Ford Times about Dollywood, in Sevierville, TN began with, “It’s as country as a Tennessee Barn Dance and as colorful as a July Fourth fireworks display. It’s as down home as grits and gravy and as gauche as rhinestone-studded boots. It’s Dollywood . . . superstar Dolly Parton’s way of bringing something home.”

      Share the meat of the story but don’t say everything. 

      In my query to The Writer, I went on to say, “You name it and we’ve written it. . . . We’ve won hundreds of contest awards, two members have columns that have run more than 25 years, one member has published a historical novel and one member has two novels for children. One has a play that was produced by a major university . . . . All have been included in anthologies . . . . five have taught creative writing classes, four have worked as newspaper editors . . .” What I saved was how we achieved all of this and the influence our critique group had on our success.

      Be careful about adjectives and adverbs. 

      Don’t say “I have this wonderful article” or “I think your magazine is the best one I’ve ever read.” If your idea is a good one, it will stand on its own, without the sugar-coating.

      Be truthful.

      Don’t say you can get an interview with Justin Beiber if you have never met him. Don’t promise things you can’t deliver and don’t agree to deadlines you can’t keep. The editor will respect your honesty more that broken promises.

      Save the last paragraph in your letter to tell about you. 

      List your credits and say if you are an expert in a particular field as it relates to your article. If you have not been published don’t say anything, and especially, don’t play on sympathy, i.e., “I’ve never written anything but if you give me a chance I know I could.” Remember, even club newsletters, church bulletins, and local newspaper guest columns can lend credibility to your writing.

So, go, and cultivate your ideas, then pick no fewer than five publications where you think an idea will fit and begin your query letter writing. Choose the publication first where your article idea is most likely to sell. Keep these ten steps in mind as you submit your queries. Don’t be discouraged if you get a rejection, just go to the next editor on your list and keep submitting. If an editor says something personal in his rejection, take it seriously, especially if he invites you to send him something else. Keep your query letters going and it won’t be long until the assignments will fill your inbox and/or mailbox. Happy writing!

Award-winning writer Patricia A. Hope has published widely in anthologies, magazines, newspapers, and literary journals including the online literary journal Maypop and a short story in Muscadine Lines. Her articles have appeared in Tennessee Women of Vision and Courage, A Tapestry of Voices, Rocking Chair and Afternoon Tales, The Writer, Blue Ridge Country, An Encyclopedia of East Tennessee, These Are Our Voices, An Appalachian Studies Teacher’s Manual, and numerous more. She has written extensively for area newspapers including the Knoxville News-Sentinel and The Oak Ridger.  She is Past Chairman of the Tennessee Writers Alliance (TWA) and Editor of the first TWA anthology, A Tennessee Landscape, People, and Places. She is the Past President of  the East TN Chapter of Society of Professional Journalists, winner of the American Cancer Society’s statewide Best Media Coverage Award and winner of a Tennessee Press Association Award. She co-founded and served as Executive Director of Tennessee Mountain Writers, Inc.(TMW), a non-profit writing organization. Because of her work with TMW, earlier this year she was recognized by the Arts Council of Oak Ridge (ACOR) as one of its "arts champions."  She lives in Oak Ridge, TN.

A former newspaper editor, Patricia currently works as a technical writer and proposal coordinator for the Services Division of Emerson Process Management.