Monday, February 17, 2014

Scriptscene Offers Class on WordPress and Blogging 101 (via An Indie Adventure ~ My Story, My Way)
Only at Scriptscene. All are welcome, you don't have to be a member of Scriptscene or RWA to take this class. Class Link    Wordpress & Blogging 101 WordPress is web software you can use to create a beautiful website or blog. It’s used on many hosting…

Thursday, February 13, 2014

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: L.A. Sartor @LesannSartor #MFRWauthor (via MFRW Authors)
We are talking with MFRW Author L.A. Sartor today. Leslie Ann Sartor (aka L.A. Sartor) began telling stories around the age of 4 when her mother, at Leslie’s insistence, wrote them down and Leslie illustrated them. As an adult she writes suspense…

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Applying the 80/20 rule

Sometimes you just gotta listen to a math guy.  James M. Jackson shares his valid thoughts about applying the 80/20 rule to writing.
~ Donnell 

In 1906 an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto analyzed the distribution of wealth in Italy and discovered 20% of the people owned 80% of the wealth[i]. [In the US, Wikipedia suggests the top 20% own over 85% of the assets[ii], but that’s a different blog.]

Dr. Joseph Juran, an early quality management guru, discovered the broad principal of “the vital few and trivial many.”

Pareto’s work was a single statistic. Juran’s a broad principal. In the magic of naming conventions, combined they became “Praeto’s Principle,” the ubiquitous 80/20 rule, which in one general form states that 80% of the results are due to 20% of the actions.

Here’s an example of the 80/20 rule in action:

Many corporations discover that 80% of their profits are derived from 20% of their customers.

They also may discover that 80% of the time spent producing work also applies to 20% of the customers.

The problem for most corporations is there is not a 1-1 correspondence between the two sets of customers. Some of the customers sucking up great gobs of time produce very little (or even negative) profits.

One result of this kind of analysis is frequent buyer programs. Airlines, for example, want to capture business flyers who regularly travel and often pay more for a ticket because they don’t qualify for advanced purchase pricing or multiple day stays. These fliers provide a disproportionate share of airline profits for the same or less cost than the typical family traveler.

How can you apply this principle in your life?

If you want to be more productive, you can begin by learning how the 80/20 rule applies to your work. Since many of the Five Scribes Blog’s readers are authors, I will use them for my examples. Self-published authors have an easier job here because they have access to all of their statistics. They can tell exactly how many books sold on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Booksamillion, Kobo, and individual bookstores.

I’d bet that for most authors, 20% of their outlets account for 80% of sales and likely of profits. Looking at how they generate profits has led some authors to choose to publish exclusively on Amazon. Doing so, they get a higher royalty rate from Amazon. The potential profits lost from foregone sales at other outlets are more than made up by the extra royalties. As an extra bonus, these authors can apply the time they would have used to create the extra formats needed by other outlets, to publicize for these venues, etc. and apply that time to writing—the thing that generates future sales.

This kind of understanding is why Joe Konrath no longer goes on book tours. He can make much more money writing new works than by meeting a few fans at signings. Of course, he spent years developing a platform, which illustrates that we need to continue to evaluate our current decisions. What was right for last year may not be right for this one.

Authors who decide they must do all of their own marketing, or design their own websites, or create their own book covers may be ignoring the effects of their personal 80/20 rule. If they paid someone for those services they would have more time to write. Increased writing develops more products to sell. Your fans will buy more from you, but only if you write more.

I read a comment last year that struck me. The author noted that historically, large publishers did not expect new authors to make them money until their fifth book. As the large publishers have become corporate behemoths, they’ve lost that patience. However, when we are our own publisher, perhaps we should be taking that long view for ourselves.

I know that if you absolutely do not have the money to invest in a career, you will have to do it all yourself. However, if you can invest, you must decide the best places to do that, and the 80/20 rule should help you to find which 20% of stuff you can farm out that will save 80% of that kind of effort.

One last word. I’m a math guy and know it is possible to run everything “by the numbers.” Fun and enjoyment have intangible benefits. If you really love doing a task and would miss it if you didn’t, then by all means keep doing it—but don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s a good business decision; it’s a life decision, and that’s okay.

~ Jim 

Applying the 80/20 rule originally appeared on Writers Who Kill BlogSpot.

JAMES M JACKSON authors the Seamus McCree mysteries, BAD POLICY (March 2013) and CABIN FEVER (coming April 2014), published by Barking Rain Press. BAD POLICY won the Evan Marshall Fiction Makeover Contest whose criteria were the freshness and commerciality of the story and quality of the writing.


Saturday, February 8, 2014

Interview with Stephanie Evans, President of Fine Print Literary Agency

Stephanie Evans, President of Fine Print Literary & final judge for the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category of The Sandy.
Stephany Evans is President of FinePrint Literary Management in New York City.  She represents a wide range of primarily women's fiction, from literary to commercial, to many sub-genres of romance, mysteries - from cozy to mainstream - and suspense.
Some of her best-known fiction projects include Emily Giffin’s SOMETHING BORROWED, Molly Harper’s NICE GIRLS DON’T HAVE FANGS series, Sherri Browning Erwin’s JANE SLAYRE, and Rebecca Coleman’s THE KINGDOM OF CHILDHOOD, Leslie Tentler’s Chasing Evil series (MIDNIGHT CALLER), Jenny Bentley’s NYT-bestselling FATAL FIXER UPPER DIY series, Waverly Curtis’s Barking Detective series (DIAL “C” FOR CHIHUAHUA), Susan M. Boyer’s Liz Talbot mysteries (including USA Today-bestselling Agatha and Daphne Du Maurier winner LOWCOUNTRY BOIL).
She’s always on the hunt for a fresh voice and strong, accomplished writing – make it smart, steamy, edgy, tough, funny, dark – or any combination of these. 

1. Which categories do you currently acquire/ represent?  Which category has a special/constant place in your heart?
                        Answer: Currently I represent virtually every type of fiction that targets a female readership – literary, commercial, “book club”, and romance of nearly every sub-genre. I also represent mysteries – both cozy and mainstream.  I always love a good, solid contemporary romance and am also a sucker for scary/hot romantic suspense. What I love is an emotional story that moves me – whether funny, scary, sexy – make me laugh, make my heart race, turn me on.  

2. What length synopsis do you prefer to see with a partial?  Single spaced or double?
Answer: I’m not a fan of the long synopsis. Usually when I ask for one it’s because I know editors will want that. Personally I prefer just a paragraph or so – about the length you’d find in a query letter – giving me the main idea about who the protagonist or hero/heroine is and the broad strokes of the plot. Enough to let me gauge whether this is potentially a story I’ll be interested in. I DO want to know how the story ends, however. Single spaced is fine.

3. In terms of submissions, what are you sick to death of and what would you like to see more of?
Answer: I can’t really respond to the “sick to death” question. The good thing about queries is that you can just say ‘no thank you’ and not invite the truly terrible into your reading queue so hopefully you never get sick to death of anything. For the other part of the question I’d just have to fall back on what I’ve already said above about the kinds of books I represent. More of that. With a fresh spin. More awesome.
4.  What are the most compelling elements you feel are necessary for a good 
 read?   What particularly grabs your attention?

Answer: I love a sureness in the writing that makes me feel I’m in such capable hands I can lay down my red pen and just give myself over to the story. I love a character who surprises me, not by being overtly “different” but by having a layered and believable personality and way of taking in their world. I want meaningful conflict, that can really make me care about the outcome.

5. For you, in general, which elements in a fiction submission are terminal problems garnering automatic rejections and which are tempting and fixable meriting a look at a revision if a talented author is willing to accept your advice? 
a.                    Voice (very important; lack of distinctive voice can be fatal)
b.                   Weak Grammar (to a degree this is fixable, but too many problems can lead to “no.”)
c.                    Common plot  (there may be suggestions I can make to help this problem if I like other elements enough to invest in the author/her project)
d.                   Poor character development  (a problem, but sometimes fixable, depending on author’s receptivity and skill)
e.                    Story is too controversial (ie rape, politics, religion—what else?) (case by case – I usually can’t make a general comment about subject matter. That said, I do not want to read child molestation.)
f.                    Mediocre / uninspired writing (pretty fatal – what’s the point?)
g.                    Excessive use of violence or cursing (Not a favorite, but this would have to be case by case judgment)
h.                   Lacking genre –specific requirements like, suspense/sexual tension/ world-building (possibly fixable, but could be fatal)
i.                     Pacing is off—plot is too slow (possibly fixable, but could be fatal)
j.                     Story starts in wrong spot (possibly fixable, depending on author’s receptivity to advice)
k.                   Ending is unsatisfactory (possibly fixable)
l.                     Other – I’d just say that most of the above don’t occur in the absence of others of the above, i.e., often when a manuscript has one problem it has more than one. In instances where I’ve indicated that a problem could be fixable, the will must be there on both sides, and for me to be willing to make suggestions I need to feel very strongly about other story/writing elements, as well as strongly about the author. There is just no time to spare these days so what we have is parceled out extremely discreetly. I don’t always know exactly why something or someone has moved me to roll up my sleeves, but there’s always a reason or two.

6. Does meeting an author face-to-face at a conference make a difference in your response time, the submission process, or the rejection process (ie. Form letter vs a few sentences of advice)?
Answer: I try to personalize a reply to someone I’ve met, but this can be just a matter of saying that it was a pleasure to have met. Sometimes those meetings were a matter of just a few minutes while the author pitched her story at a conference. Unfortunately, it can’t always affect the response time (just as having met an agent does not always affect the author’s response time – I may see submissions from pitches months or even longer after I’m pitched!). But if I’ve requested something, whether I’ve met the author or not, I do try to say something more than “this just wasn’t for me after all.”

7. Besides the writing, the story and the talent, what are the most important elements you look for in an author, ie. contest wins, cooperativeness, affiliations to writers organizations, knowledge of publishing industry, promotability, etc?
Answer: All of the above. And patience – which we all wish we didn’t need and hope we won’t need too much of. But publishing has a lot of moving pieces and involves a lot of people so queues and triaging are endemic. I’m also looking for a level of energy – an author who really “wants it,” and is self-motivated, will take direction and go beyond that on her own behalf. And a wonderful writer with an abundant supply of ideas is pretty great to work with.  
8. Do you have any pet peeves?

Answer: Not at this time. Ask me tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Worst Query Letter Ever Contest

Five Scribes readers, now I've heard everything.  I know we have contests for great query letters.  But did you know at the 32nd annual Cocoa Beach Writers' Conference in Florida, they actually asked for entries for bad ones? Author Bill Allen took it as a personal challenge, and, sadly...sadly as poorly as the following letter is written, Bill didn't win.
So with fun in mind, we'd like to present an example of what not to do when submitting a query letter.  Although, keep in mind, there really are worse letters than this.

Dear Mr. Publisher Man or Woman,
Drop whatever yur readin cuz I got sumpen thats gonna blow all them other writers outta tha water and you aint gonna wanna miss it cuz its guaranteed to sell millions a copies. I call it Hot Times in the Coal Mines and its bout my pappy Darryl and my other pappy Darryl and their insexual relatins. They had it hardern most folk on accounta it was so tough for em to work the mines and carry on their insexual relatins what with them being joined at the backside the way they was. I dont wanna spoil nothing but it turns out real good up until the fire. Well yule see when it hits the shelves and you and the rest a America get to read the endin. I dont wanna brag but my girlfriend Ellie—shes the one helped me fix up this letter cuz sometimes I dont get all my spellin and grammer just right—anyway she also fixed up Hot Times and she says its the best book shes ever read, which is sayin a lot cuz she went to school and everything all the way up through the fifth grade. And shes not the only one likes it. Momma says its grate and even ifn she cant read, shes a right smart lady. Oh your probly wonderin bout that black stuff that blew upin yer face when you opent my letter. That theres real coal dust from Harpers Mine up in Harpers Holler where my pappys carryd on there insexual relatins. Bet that suprised yer dint it. Them lighter specks is real special. Theys some of Pappy Darryls actual ashes. Oh and some of Pappy Darryls ashes two.
Well Ellies gonna be here shortly so I best run. Im sendin all my book pages up yer way in my possum catchin box. Sorry bout the smudges but you know how it is with coal dust has a way a getting into everythin. They aint typed but I figure thats what yer for. Dont take too long cuz I need my money right off. Momma needs a new truck on accounta the one we got now makes these whoop whoop whoop sounds when she steps on the go pedal. Momma says its a problem with the plugs but I dont think sheed be havin these kinda troubles if sheed jus stop fillin the tank with Granpappy Darryls corn squeezins. Well it don't matter no way cuz wheel be able to buy loads a trucks once all that money starts rollin in. Oh Ellies here so I gotta go. Im so excited. If only Pappy and Pappy were here to see this. Cant wait fer yer call. Oh did I mention we dont have no phone. Dont worry. If you just ring the Whistle Stop up in Harpers Holler they all know me and momma up their. Everybody knows me and momma. Specially momma but I cant tell her story cuz she aint dead yet. Dont say nothin to her but it shouldnt be long now. Shes nerely forty. K gotta go.
Cletus Blackspot
PS Ellie says hi.

Now keep in mind that Bill Allen did not paragraph when he submitted, but your humble blogger decided to have mercy on your eyes.  (So for those of you who may be impressed by Mr. Allen's submission, don't be.  It's an example of what NOT to do ;)



P.S.  Although Mr. Allen was heartbroken at not being considered, he’ll have to content himself by writing fabulous children’s books, that believe it or not, are perfectly spelled, humorous and a delight to readers.

Bill Allen may be described as an unusual man who has accomplished an unusual many deeds. In fact, it has been said that if you total up all the things he claims to have done, he cannot possibly be less than seven hundred years old.

No one knows if this is true. All that is certain is that for a good many years he has been living in Melbourne, Florida with his wife, Nancy, writing software by day and, well, mostly sleeping by night. Every now and again he writes stories, too.