Friday, November 16, 2012

ABC's of Writing - (T)ell Me Why I Should Buy Your Book!

I had originally wanted to blog yesterday about Showing Not Telling for the "S" Day but the submission idea seemed to fit better. What I want to talk about today will connect with that prior idea of submissions and also get in my point of Show Don't Tell.

When it comes to submissions, all to often, I find cover letters that simply do nothing. Sure, they have the basics about the book, sure they have a blurb about the book, but in the end, I look at the cover letter and it is missing one key element. There is not one note from the author as to WHY I want to buy the book! There is this assumption that we will simply be blown away by this paragraph long blurb. Some how, we will pick up telepathically that this is the story for us.

As an author, you have to be much more proactive when it comes to your query letters. You need to come right out and state what it is about your story that makes this exactly the thing I want to buy (or sign). The more you can target that agent or editor and demonstrate clearly, and with specifics, how your story is what the agent wants, the better the chance that person will want to read more of the project.

So where do you go for this information? Again, the answer is simple. Look to what the agent has posted on their FAQ pages. Look for comments they make on their blogs and so forth. Don't just limit your rationale for contacting the agent or editor simply because they take that genre.

For example, let's look at my submission guidelines for three genres:


Word count 75,000 - 110,000
I am looking for something that stands out as being unique. Telling the same old vampire, werewolf, demon, or angel story is not going to work. I am not interested in Urban fantasy here. I really want to see those strong paranormals. Time travels are great but please make sure the time travel is "real" and plays a role in the plot.
If you are submitting this story, then somehow state what it is that makes the paranormal unique. Even if you are submitting a vampire romance, you have to somehow show me how the story is not what we already see out there in the massive amount of paranormal stories in print now. Be VERY clear!

Word count 75,000 - 110,000
Stories should be real and the main story arc has to be the romance. Please make sure that we don't have characters doing things that would not normally happen in real life. Please review Maslow's Hierarchy to understand what I mean here. In other words, if someone is being stalked by a sexual preditor, he or she will not be interested in sex.
You have to show here how the story is truly a suspense story and how it is a real life issue. You will also notice that I mention Maslow's hierarchy. If you aren't familiar with this, make sure to read it. This will give you a sense of what I am looking for.

Word count 75,000 - 110,000
I am actively looking for "book club" style women's fiction pieces. These stories should examine the world through a woman's eyes. We want to see what it means to be a woman. Stories can be historical or contemporary but the focus must be on the female journey.Please focus on one issue and not a ton of personal problems the protagonist has. Stories can have happy or sad endings.
Please no adultry.

The key here is to focus on the female journey. You have to focus more on what we are learning about the female pscyhe and less about the plot. What is the big take away that you want us to have. You should somehow also focus on that "book club" style.
What you should notice from all of these three is that, while we focus on the plot and the characters, we also tap into a demonstation of how that story fits the genre category and the likes and dislikes of the agent or editor. I would also add that if your story does have something we don't like, or we say we don't want, then DO NOT submit it.

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